This past March I gave a talk with DJ Sharaab at Georgia Tech, at which he played one of his compositions, a nice little d&b with South Asian flavor. After which, somebody in the crowd asked if the song were New Age, eliciting concurring nods from others in the crowd. Around that time, I said that a lot of Asian electronic artists are going to have a hard time escaping the New Age chains since these Western artists have been ganking Asian sounds for over three decades for their own nefarious purposes.
I think TJ Rehmi’s Invisible Rain exemplifies this battle perfectly. The New Age spectre looms like a dragon all over this project. Rehmi himself is well-equipped for the battle, programming and playing keys, electric guitar, sitarguitar, and synth guitars, and his comrades-in-arms are equally adept. It’s just that they’re fighting a mighty formidable foe: a lot of history.
There are songs like the title track that simply can’t escape New Age’s dastardly clutches; and you think that “Hypnotic Embrace” will with its crisp, live drumming, but the dreamy synths suck it into the void. Then, “Shaam Aye” falls pancake-flat on its face trying to escape, dreadfully using the legendary guitar lick from “It’s Your Thing” to painful effect.
But all is not lost. Rehmi does do good work that’s worth investigating. He uses 2step quite well in “Tonik,” and he is most definitely at his best utilizing drum & bass. His is a haunting dance elixir with very dark and mournful textures. “Spiritual Technology,” “Soft Equations,” and “Exposure” are great pieces of work, and the hip-hop flavored “Dear Earthling…” is also worth checking out.
This battle’s going to go on for quite awhile, and it seems that Rehmi’s developing an armory that may one day be formidable in its own right.