1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 81

Ok, by Talvin Singh
Suggested by Simon Rodway

For a long while, Dance music occupied one small box in my mind. To channel the old complaint levelled at the heavier music I loved by metaphorical parents everywhere, it all sounds the same.

I know better nowadays, of course, as I’m no longer such a musical militant. But even now, I feel the need to approach such music on tenterhooks, ripe with Imposter Syndrome, unequipped to enter discourse on the finer points of something with which I so rarely engage.

Here’s hoping Talvin Singh can take me out of my comfort zone into a place of comfort.

Ok brings a bhangra dance feel to Drum and Bass, fusing traditional instrumentation over the throbbing bass and click-track staccato drum loops associated with the genre. It’s a fresh sound, a full twenty years after its release, and it retains the frenetic pace and closeness for which such Techno is famed.

While you might expect the traditional style to be limiting in its framework, Talvin Singh does a fine job of introducing a cavalcade of styles to ensure there’s no real feel of repetition. This is no mean feat, as my main reservation about Drum and Bass is that is can get a little grating en masse. It can also overpower if left to proliferate unchecked, like a pernicious kudzu or a horny rabbit, so Talvin’s lightness of touch is appreciated, adding as it does a layer of spaciousness you’d not expect.

On the other hand, there is a sense of indulgence about some of the later tracks, especially the initially haunting Soni, which starts with elegant strings accompanied by traditional female singing, but ends with some strangely flat spoken word recital that strips bare the beauty that’s come before it. I’m also disappointed by the final track, Vikram the Vampire, but with such a great title it was always going to be an uphill struggle to live up to the hype.

As the final bars fade, I feel a little undernourished by this aural buffet. Early on there’s a sense of joy and life, and an almost frenetic need to drag you into the music and onward to the horizon. By the end, it’s much more tranquil, maybe even laissez-faire, and the overall experience is diminished because of it.

It’ll come as no surprise that my favourite track appears early on: the wonderful Butterfly. I’d rate Ok at a middling 5/10, and depart the scene feeling I’ve heard all that Talvin has to offer.

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