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Taal Tantra Experience: Sixth Sense

img  Tobias Fischer

Despite inspiring a wealth of classic albums over the past few decades,  cross-over has always had its fierce critics. Bill Dixon, never a man to shy away from strong opinions, was quick to denounce what he considered a movement towards creative dilution: „That's something one shouldn't do at all. You can't combine anything, really. You can't just create a new language from French, Spanish, Italian, German and Russian. What you can do is to allow yourself to be influenced by these different languages to be able to express yourself more clearly in your own mother tongue.“ Tell that to the members of the Taal Tantra Experience. An Indo-German cultural combustion engine sparked and formed by Tabla-master Tanmoy  Bose's spontaneous decision to check out Berlin's scene for Jazz and improvisation on the spur of the moment, the formation are juxtaposing the West with the East, the spiritual with the physical, the immediate with the carefully meditated and the erruptively rhythmical with the sensually harmonic.

On their second full-length, „Sixth Sense“, the five-piece, frequently extended into a more sizable ensemble through the inclusion of a plethora of guest musicians, even more importantly manage to make the result sound entirely seamless and of one piece: After opening tune „Khandam“ has gotten off to a blistering start on the strength of polyrhthmic scat-vocals, Bosey's invigorating jaw harp and a suspenseful groove, Tilmann Dehnhard lays out the main motive, a long and winding, constantly breaking and accelerating entity stretching out over several bars and culminating in a Kletzmer-affiliated sidetheme, which paves the ground for a string of solos, each formulated in a distinctly personal idiom of its own and yet without creating harsh edges or crass contrasts. If there is a single, fundamental philosophy to the record as a whole – which actually seems highly unlikely considering the multitude of moods, styles and modes on display here – it must surely be that underneath regional garments and local dialects, there is a shared plateau on which the exchange of ideas, thoughts and emotions can take place on an intuitive and wordless level.

The closest Taal Tantra have come to realising this vision is the progressive sonic architecture of „It's been a long way“, an organically stretched-out suite divided into three distinct and separate parts, which nonetheless add up to a cohesive whole. Over the course of its immersive twelve-and-a-half-minutes, this equally explorative, ambitious and immediate work runs the gamut from the Blues and Sound Art to Pop and hypnotic Electronica and back again, incorporating field recordings and a colorful instrumentation of Tablas and Sanfona alongside Percussion, Bass and Guitar. It also sees the musicians playing with concepts of space: While the opening section, in which Kai Brückner's guitar navigates through a maze of atmospheric chords, can be considered representative of the intimate and film-noir mood of a club gig, the trippy middle movement, driven by insistently funky rhythmics and cosmic vocals, appears to be floating through the air far away from earthly limitations. Its form, marked by both fluent and abrupt changes of tempo, ambiance and accents, neither dogmatically adheres to the impro-tradition nor the parameters set by Indian music, creating a new and idiosyncratic framework for expression instead.

While the remaining material is of a decisively more concise and familiar quality, the album as a whole seems to have been conceptualised as a singular journey, with tracks corresponding to each other like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. While the music, on an individual compositional level, leans towards the integrative rather than the confrontational, the carefully balanced contrasts between tracks create a far more expansive tension arch instead: From the blissful exultations of „Rikshaws on Rash Bihari“ to the jazzy stillness of „Between the Worlds“ and from the soulful reed-harmonies of „What we need“ to the raw Rock-riffing of „The Cobra“, the album moves forward with both grace and an undeniable pulse, its snapshots adding up to a vivid photo album.

Whether or not the result is truly a new language is of no relevance whatsoever here. Taal Tantra don't treat the cross-over-debate as though it were a hypothetical linguistic metaphor or about a Utopian vision for the future. Instead, they treat cultural integration and cross-border communication as what they really are: An everyday reality, which can be treated either as a threat or an inspiration. For „Sixth Sense“, they have thankfully opted for the latter.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Taal Tantra Experience
Homepage: Ozella Records

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