Music News

State of Bengal vs. Paban Das Baul

This album is essentially a cool experiment that actually works. London DJ Sam Zaman, a.k.a. State of Bengal, went to Paris and tapped Paban Das Baul, an Indian street singer who belongs to a group of gypsy-like mystics, to sing over his beats. Together, they fashion a record that isn't quite techno (lots of live drums and guitars), isn't quite organic (programming all over the place), and isn't really like anything else you're going to hear this year.

All the Baul singers are considered pretty far out back in India, but Paban's old-soul voice sounds fairly normal, as communiqués from outer space go. "Kali Kali" plays out like a really good dream; Baul owns the track from the beginning, moaning his lyrics low early on and then jumping an octave when the first fast beat of the album kicks in. "Dohal Allah" is about as funky as two-step Afro beat new wave funk gets. Yeah, there are a few too many repressed ambient leanings, like "Radha Krishna," and there are a lot of moments here where Baul sounds like he's going to get wild and start wailing all over the place, then pulls back. Yet the pretty stuff is pretty and the dancey stuff is dancey, and it's an experiment that worked, so much respect is due here. -- Matt Cibula

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