Exposé Online banner

Amirtha Kidambi / Elder Ones — Holy Science
(Northern Spy NS 085, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-01-13

Holy Science Cover art

It is well known that John Coltrane’s music was influenced by exposure to Indian ragas. Here is a case where some of Coltrane’s ideas are applied back to South Asian traditions. Not that there’s really anything traditional about Amirtha Kidambi’s music — unless you count 20th Century avant-garde music and free jazz as traditions. With Elder Ones, Kidambi strives to combine her background in the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono with both the spiritual jazz of John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane and aspects of Carnatic music. She is the composer and contributes voice and harmonium; she’s joined by Brandon Lopez (bass), Matt Nelson (soprano sax), and Max Jaffe (drums). The harmonium at times provides a drone basis for the music, and at other times either doubles the bass or provides commentary. It’s an unusual tone color to have in such a context, which could loosely be called jazz, and gives the group a sonic calling card rather like Alice Coltrane’s harp did for Journey in Satchidananda. Kidambi’s singing does not involve words, being her own style of scatting, choosing syllables for their tone rather than meaning, and her voice is never a detraction from the music. In the hands (or vocal chords) of a lesser talent, such extended sections of vocalization might get grating or tiresome, but her melodic inventiveness and touch with phrasing and vibrato are impressive, and she never resorts to typical “dweedly-bop doo-wa” jazz cliches. She could as easily be singing in Sanskrit or Hindi or even Kobaïan, though her melodies are more Ella Fitzgerald than Bollywood or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. (There are parts of “Dvapara-Yuga” and “Kali-Yuga” that could pass for stripped-down jazzy Magma outtakes.) Nelson’s sax is Kidambi’s primary melodic foil, venturing into all sorts of tonal territory and never sinking into the sappy sweetness that soprano saxes are prone to — the precedent is clearly more Anthony Braxton than Grover Washington. The bass and drums slip seamlessly from grooves to freedom, both driving and coloring the four long pieces on the album. As with much music that falls well outside normal boundaries, it might take a few listens to get a feeling for what Elder Ones are doing, but the depth and musicality are impressive.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Matt Nelson, Amirtha Kidambi / Elder Ones

More info
http://amirthakidambi.bandcamp.com/album/holy-science

Latest news

2018-05-14
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more

2018-04-05
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more

2018-04-04
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more

2018-03-01
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more

2018-02-26
Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Coven - Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls – This is one of the freakiest things I've ever heard — a psychedelic rock recording from the late 60s entirely based on a kind of horror-movie Satanism, including more than thirteen minutes devoted...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues