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Black Marble & Sweet Fire
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Described as "a modern Mughal ambience," the music is inspired by a wistful recollection of the historic Mughal era of the declining Indian empire of the late 18th/19th century. With its exotic and transformed colors, complex rhythms and refined musical tenor, the music of Black Marble and Sweet Fire borders the techno-tribal style of Jon Hassell sans the funk and jazz elements. If you can imagine a collaboration between Hassell, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, and Harold Budd using Indian music as the foundation, you'll begin to imagine the world of Al Gromer Khan and Kai Taschner. Predominantly rhythm-activated and driven, the collaboration turns away from Khan's trademark concepts of "music from a distance" and "music as perfume" in favor of a more active mix.
Khan takes a credit for "electronic sound philosophy" in addition to sitar, surbahar (a bass sitar), and keyboards; Taschner is billed with "electronic sound design" as well as keyboards. With Khan's command of musical aesthetics and Taschner's studio mastery, plus their impeccable musicianship, the album has a lively and sumptuous crosscultural sound much greater than the sum of its parts.
Taking off from Khan's stylistic base, sitars play against synthesizers, while familiar Western percussion instruments beat against Eastern hand drums. Yet Khan and Taschner avoid the merely exotic. Instead, sophisticated Indian and middle eastern melodies join with harmonies rooted in the West, while the intricate North African rhythms imply colors and textures found only in the electronic studio. Taschner's studio techniques and sound processing layer the lyrical sonorities to build complex sounds and spectra. More than just establishing novel moods, Khan and Taschner create an alluring, seductive, sensual new world, at once spacious and intimate, rich and austere, colorful and focused.