Tabla player and electronica producer Karsh Kale is roughly one-eighth of the ethnic/electronic powerhouse Tabla Beat Science. If you haven’t heard that group, stop reading this review now and go buy Tala Matrix or Live in Stern Grove.
For those of you still reading, Kale released a really nice album in 2001, Realize, that mixed breakbeats with Indian folk. Liberation starts off in the same vein until the fourth track, when he breaks out of the “dance music with Indian elements” mode and into unexpected territory: composition.
“Milan” and the subsequent songs are not so much dance songs as excursions. The closest analogy would be classical music — the sense of traveling a wordless emotional trajectory of progression and transformation. The journey is utterly absorbing, and it helps Kale get away with things you’d never think you’d accept; by the time the cinematic strings hit, you’re in the palm of his hand. He could bring in a children’s choir (in fact, maybe he does … what are those samples?) and you’d love it.
Kale lets space do the talking: He uses sparing production and bansuri (Indian flute) behind the ubiquitous tabla. He never forces a vibe or drags a song in a direction it doesn’t want to go. Liberated from the strictures of both dance music and Indian music, Liberated explores musical landscapes with flexibility and sensitivity. The result will stay with you longer than any so-called hybrid.