Nitin Sawhney – One Zero (Metropolis Recordings/Cherry Red)
CD/Vinyl Box Set
The tenth album from renowned performer Nitin Sawhney is an all acoustic affair. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates gives us his thoughts.
There’s something about hearing an artist has ‘re-interpreted their songs for an acoustic album’ that always makes me wince. To me, it usually marks lack of ideas and, well, a bit of a cash-in or a stop-gap before a new album. It would appear that the new Nitin Sawhney album may be one of the later with a new album, Dystopian Dream, due in 2014.
What makes this album intriguing is the fact that it was recorded live, straight to vinyl. Something which apparently hasn’t been done in the mainstream for thirty-five years. What makes this such a great thing? According to Sawhney, it enhances focus, commitment and concentration and, listening to the album, you really can’t argue with the man. Tracks like openers Accept Yourself and Sunset are immaculate, perfectly performed , and contain the wonderful fusion of East meets West that he is so clever at creating. A whole generation of listeners possibly turned onto Indian music by his originality and daring.
Where the album goes slightly awry is with some of the tracks that do not have the inter-continental fusion. With early albums Spirit Dance or Migration he was truly original and spellbinding, but in later years he has opted for a more westernised, commercial feel which has, in many ways, lost some of the Sawhney charm. Album closer, I Ask You, is a case in point. Featuring guest vocals by the undoubtedly talented Joss Stone, it is merely a pop song (and not a particularly great one) which is carried by her vocals. It’s nice enough but it doesn’t possess anything any different to a million other songs around at the moment.
There are other great highlights though, the vocal interplay and frenetic percussion on The Conference was always superb but is now lifted to another level on OneZero, and the Indian / Blues mix on Dead Man makes for a brilliant track.
The album does contain excellent musicianship and is well worth a listen merely for that, but if you want to hear Sawhney at his best, 1999’s Beyond Skin is probably the one most likely to help to get to know the man.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.>