Sonic Discourse, Album Review >>
Sheela Bringi – Incantations
By: Mickey White
Since early January, I’ve been anticipating the debut effort from singer, harpist and bansuri flautist Sheela Bringi. And on Incantations, she doesn’t disappoint. What makes Incantations such a compelling effort is the melding of styles that are rooted in traditional Indian music, as well as jazz and blues. Hindu devotional chants and Balkan brass are also visited on this album, to an impressive effect I would not call this album groundbreaking by any means, but it’s definitely a fresh look on all of these influences and genres. Bringi delivers on these performances, taking the wheel on a good amount of these songs. However, contributions to this album by producer Clinton Patterson really put all of these styles together nicely by contributing more western influences.
Fortunately, Incantations succeeds in not being a tacky take on Eastern influences, and that’s largely because Bringi, who was raised in Colorado, was classically trained to play the instruments that she does and she grew up with these influences. This is more of an Eastern music album incorporating moderate Western influence than the other way around.
As for any Western influence on this album, producer Clinton Patterson does a fantastic job incorporating jazz trumpet and bluesy guitar on parts of this album. Songs like “Saraswati” strike me, in particular, for its guitar use. There’s some really well used drones on this album as well as drum’n'bass. There’s even plenty of songs that don’t feature drums. Album highlight “Buffalo-Demon Slayer” incorporates thavil drums, saxophone, clarinet and trumpet, in addition to the instruments Bringi is usually playing on this album, to create the closest thing to a banger on Incanations.
Otherwise, the harmonies on this album are fantastic. There’s some interesting play with meter on this album. It’s an album that’s all over the place, but on the surface sounds quite simple. There’s a fascinating attitude to this album. It’s a daring, ambitious re-imagining of traditional Indian music and it goes to some really fun places. On a lot of these tracks, my ears feel like they’re in a candy store. She’s about as awesome of a harpist as we’ve seen make somewhat of a name for themselves in the music-sphere since Joanna Newsom and while her voice and songwriting isn’t quite what what Newsom’s is, she’s adept in those departments, as well as plenty others.
While this could have been an underwhelming first effort, and admittedly, this didn’t blow my mind, it suffices to say that Bringi did live up to the expectations I had for this album. I was very pleased by this album, and I highly suggest that you check this out if you’re one of my more open-minded readers.
03/03/14 >> go there