Sunday, 26 October 2008

Review - Nitin Sawhney - London Undersound

Nitin Sawhney - London Undersound

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8 out of 10

With "London Undersound", Nitin Sawhney has publicly stated that he wants this album to be "an album of collaboration. to capture the London I know." And a fine job he's done too.

The opening track, "Days of Fire" is absolutely sublime - a firsthand account from Natty - fellow recording artist and friend of Sawhney, of the London 7/7 bombings, and the later shooting for Charles De Menezes. The recurring and almost haunting line of "...but now I've seen the city change in oh so many ways" sets the tone for the remainder of the album. It's captivating, and creates such nostalgia that I instantly remember the fear upon realising that my Dad was likely to have been on one of the trains that were bombed in the attack. Luckily my Dad returned safe and sound, but this single track, with it's train-like chugging guitar chords really do evoke the feeling of a London that's been turned upside-down and is a truly superb prologue to an inspiring album.

The list of artists who have contributed to this album in one way or another is like a who's-who of worldwide musical splendour - Sir Paul McCartney, Imogen Heap, Roxanne Tataei, Aruba Red, Tina Grace. and the list goes on.

The McCartney collaboration is a tender, twisted and aggravated tale of love, alongside his status in celebrity culture and his astringent relationship with the paparazzi, and the lyrics envelop this perfectly: "One soul displaced, one heart replaced, feelings defaced, invade our space, no one left to give us back our time".

The Imogen Heap collaboration "Bring it Home" is equally as hard-hitting, but in a totally different way - it's a whirlwind 5 minutes that illustrates perfectly what life might be like in the busy city. Heap's ethereal tones and the up-beat tempo alongside lyrics "equal but opposite.. we're in this together" encompass the notion of the integrated cultures and lifestyles all over London.

I won't bore you by dissecting each and every track on this album, but believe me when I say that it's a truly remarkable piece of work. Whilst musically, not every track is as pleasing on the ear as the tracks I've mentioned so far, the observations and commentary that Sawhney and co. provide are so true to form and thought provoking that I've not been able to stop listening for days. It encompasses the changed outlook on the city of London so perfectly that I'm surprised that every Londoner doesn't own this album as staple listening.


1. Days of Fire
2. October Daze
3. Bring it Home
4. Interlude 1 - Ghost Image
5. My Soul
6. Interlude 2 - Soledad
7. Distant Dreams
8. Interlude 3 - Street Sounds
9. Shadowland
10. Daybreak
11. Interlude 4 - Identity
12. Ek Jaan
13. Transmission
14. Interlude 5 - Tension
15. Last Train to Midnight
16. Interlude 6 - Ronald Gray
17. Firmament
18. Charu Keshi Rain

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