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

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Bill Nelson - Whimsy – Keeping up with Bill Nelson is a difficult task. The man is so prolific that new releases seem to be a mere by-product of his breathing. Luckily he’s supremely talented, and apparently has hit upon...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues