Advaita: Grounded in Space
The word ‘fusion’ always makes me nervous. What is being fused? And why? Would anyone call The Police a ‘fusion’ band because they used reggae rhythms in a power-trio rock format? Was “Within You Without You” a moment of fusion because it used sitars, or was it just another instance of George Harrison’s visionary songwriting? I’m not really sure. And that makes me nervous. The issue is not just one of semantic clarity. It has to do with packaging. Too often, ‘fusion’ is just some sort of cute USP, with no tangible bridging of musical vocabularies going on.
With that out of the way, we now come to the ‘fusion’ album at hand: Advaita’s ‘Grounded in Space’. It is not a fusion album, as far as I can tell. It’s not a fusion album in the same way that Raghu Dixit’s album (which I’ve reviewed before) is not: they use traditional Indian instruments and guitars, to be sure; but that’s about it. Don’t believe a thing Advaita tells you.
Does that make ‘Grounded in Space’ a bad album? Hardly. The album is beautifully produced, with some solid musicianship all around. The noodling time signatures on songs like “Drops of Earth” and “Suspended” ensure that the album doesn’t descend into the kind of easy-listening pit that the album’s mellow vibes veer dangerously close to. The electronics on “Ghir Ghir” and the downtempo “Miliha” create a generous sonic space that’s never too full — the melodies are always tasteful and the textures sparse. Suhail Yusuf Khan’s virtuosity on the sarangi makes an all too brief appearance on “Hamsadhwani”, and the electric piano tones and hooks on “So Lost” are just sweet.
So what’s wrong with the album? Nothing. I think. I can’t quite put my finger on what leaves me largely unenthused by ‘Grounded in Space’. Essentially, Advaita are an Indian pop version of downtempo bands like Zero 7: they’ve created very pretty mood music. Whether you enjoy the band largely depends on the time of day. There’s nothing on this album that jumps out and grabs you, but there’s nothing that has you skipping tracks in disgust either. I’m willing to forgive them their deceptive ‘fusion’ labeling, since Advaita have created a largely decent album. It’s far from mind-numbing, but it’s hardly mind-blowing.