Originally published in April 2012 for the Hindu Metroplus
Karsh Kale – Cinema (Special Indian Edition) – Six Degrees Records
Rs. 100 (Digital Download)
He may have all the star-studded collaborations to brag about – sharing the stage with Alicia Keys, Will.i.am, Anoushka Shankar and Sting – but Karsh Kale is in his best element when he’s working with his closest friends and long-time associates.
This edition of ‘Cinema’ comes out a year after it blazed the Billboard and iTunes charts in North America. Kale explained the gap, saying he wanted to get a live band together and tour India in support of the album. So while I might be a year late in reviewing this, ‘Cinema’ seems to sound fresher with every listen.
The album opens with ‘Island’, an electric mix of sitar-shredding and bansuri by Pt. Ajay Prasanna. It’s also the only song on which we hear Kale provide vocals, with those duties being assumed on the rest of ‘Cinema’ by the likes of Monica Dogra, Vishal Vaid and Todd Michaelsen.
There are tracks such as ‘Man on Fire’ (featuring Pt. Sunil Das on sitar) and the self-titled ‘Cinema’, on which we hear Kale manning almost every instrument on every layer to produce something that aligns itself with the concept of the album. The flair for film, that which is cinematic in music is brought out in 13 different ways on ‘Cinema’.
You can hear it in the santoor-meets-guitars-meets-bansuri on ‘Supernova’, and on ‘Joy’, which may as well be the perfect example of what Indian fusion should sound like. The enlistment of Classical vocalists such as Vidhi Sharma, Shruti Pathak and Papon gives the album a voice which matches Kale’s abilities as a percussionist.
‘Ma’ is a contemplative track featuring vocals from Kale’s daughter Milan Xai, and there’s an intense gear shift on the following track ‘Phoenix Rising’. With strong riffs and drumming that sees cymbals crash nonstop, this one is almost entirely less fusion and more rock.
One drawback to listening to ‘Cinema’ is that it may not be possible to get through it all in one sitting. With almost every other song touching the five minute length, there are standout tracks, but the album’s multi-faceted approach may be difficult to palate for some. That said, there’s bound to be something for everyone on ‘Cinema’ – from fans of Hindustani Classical and Sufi to crowds that sway to electro-rock and dance.