Ground Zero takes you on a whirlwind tour of one of the hottest trends in ambient trance today — its fusion with world music. Here the emphasis is on South Asia, with some crossover to the Middle East as well. Lots of tablas, flute, and sitars combined with plenty of beatmakers, electronic and otherwise. Overall, the collection has a fairly mellow tone, with a number of introspective and even reverent-feeling tracks.
According to the press release, Ground Zero has two unreleased tracks — “Shin the Mechanic” from Dhol Foundation, led by Johnny Kalsi of the Afro-Celt Sound System, and “O.U.R.” from Sheila Chandra’s later Indipop days (1991) — both of which are pretty cool. There’s also an unreleased remix of “Sweet Pain” from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook, which I was less pleased with because Khan’s amazing singing was pushed pretty far down in the mix. Other well known groups on the comp are Ananda Shankar Experience with State of Bengal, whose track “Throw Down” had an awesome groove and some amazing sitar work, and Transglobal Underground, whose “Ali Mullah” delivers some nicely danceable rhythms layered around the chanted song title and other vocals by Egyptian singer Natacha Atlas.
A new discovery for me was Amon Tobin. His track “Easy Muffin” turned out to be complex, interesting, and slinky, combining oceanic synths with smoky horns, woodwinds, and hypnotic female vocals into a noir scene set in a dimly lit bar, where a sultry glance and a flash of bare thigh hide thin, cold, steel and dues to be paid. Another new name to me, DJ Cheb I Sabbah’s offering “Ganga Dev” takes us miles away, to the banks of the holy river Ganges, using sitar in harmony with female voice backed with tabla, synth, and electronic percussion to provide a devotional for the mother of all rivers that you can dance to.
A few of the tracks didn’t do much for me, but overall, Ground Zero is a good place to start if you’re interested in checking out the sounds of South Asian world fusion.
Shakti, 4650 N. Port Washington Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53212, http://www.shaktirecords.com