Elements, Underscore Records
Keyboard player Anindo Bose and vocalist Pavithra Chari call themselves Shadow and Light and create music that lies in between smooth jazz and slick mid-tempo soul. There are glorious moments in their music, which find their summit in the merging of Hindustani and Carnatic classical elements with the jazz and soul.
Elements is an album recorded in a tiny home studio in Delhi’s CR Park by Advaita’s synth man and an up and coming female vocalist. The effort leads to music which is schmaltzy but worthy. Elements is one of the more sophisticated and layered contemporary fusion albums from an Indian band in recent times. The brilliance lies in how clean the arrangements are and how the melodies breathe easily.
While Chari’s lilting, soulful voice oscillates between Hindustani classical and Carnatic classical, she also modulates her voice into that of a seasoned dream pop singer attempting some jazz with ease. The effortlessness of her movements paired with Bose’s eccentric pumping of the piano melody delivers a scaled-down yet powerful performance.
The two pretty much find their groove in Baras, the first piece on the album that leads us into the rich and expansive universe of this album. It’s interesting how the track like all rain songs, is not in raga Miyan Malhar but borrows from a more serious raga, Bhimpalasi. Chari layers her voice on Bose’s bluesy piano riff and some light drum beats. And then from singing tarana vocals she moves to English vocals and back to singing in Hindi. The transition is effortless but one wishes that this piece and the others that follow were either completely in Hindi or only in English. The mix works melodically but not in terms of expressiveness of the tunes.
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The pace picks up in Saavre, which as a track is a faint reminder of the famous Heer paired with some fantastic synth interludes, buoyant drums and chorus. Chari and Bose attempt something similar here, except more techno elements creep in. The powerful bass keeps them company but without overpowering the subtleties in the album.
While numbers like Broken Boundaries and Elements aren’t the best pieces on the album, Tum is plain gorgeous. Another gem on the album is Viraha. Losely based on raga Darbari, it stands alongside Tum to contend for the top position in the 10-track album. Dheemi is a complicated jazz piece, the staccato lines of which segue into each other to deliver a piece worthy of being on loop.
But in some songs such as Arzoo, the duo resorts to formulaic studio-band grooves, taking away most of the gumption it otherwise delivers with much heart. That said the album should be heard for the way Chari expands the melancholy in her voice to turn in some graceful, and deftly-composed ballads, that defy her age (she’s just 21) and Bose’s orchestration. Their next chapter will have us tuning in.