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CD Review: Midival Punditz / Hello Hello

Midival Punditz – Hello Hello/Six Degrees 2009

Tapan Raj & Gaurav Raina / Karsh Kale – co-producer

Last year saw the release of a milestone album in Indian electronica as Midival Punditz let loose on the world their third long play ‘Hello Hello’. Ever since hearing their eponymous debut back in 2002 I’ve been hooked to this duo from Delhi and hoping  to catch them live, without success so far. This is a band that no audiophile with interest in the subcontinent’s contemporary music scene should miss out on. Did I hear someone ask ‘who are the Midival Punditz’?

They’re a New Delhi based electronic duo started back in 1997. In a short time they’ve gone from obscurity to cult fame with a style that incorporates elements from bhangra, jungle and Indian classical music into an electronic concoction of their own. In the clubs of New Delhi they created a series of events called Cyber Mehfil. Which were essentially a kind of modern update on the ancient north Indian tradition of artistic gatherings where poets recited their works and set them to song. At this point in their career the Midival Punditz have become probably the most in-demand producers and remixers in India and have worked on several bollywood tracks and remixed other artists.

More than that I don’t know, nor do I necessarily need to know, nor do you. Just check them out so you can be the guy in the future who says,”yeah, I dug them way before you even had a clue about ’em man”. Take it from me, years from now they will be hailed as pioneers of their genre on the subcontinent.

Where the previous album felt more like a world music with electronic influences, this one has the feel of an electronic album with ethnic influences. Labeling the album simply electronica would be an oversimplification, as there are so many influences ranging from Hindustani classical all the way to rock music. Take for example the Led Zeppelin cover Four Sticks: with groovy percussion, female vocals and a horn section it sounds like a theme song from James Bond, and I don’t meant that in a bad way.

The starter, Electric Universe, is a funky track that makes heavy use of vocoder vocals and synthetic beats, but with a distinctly Indian element added in by the ethereal bansoori flute. A smooth track with an addictive quality.

Tonic’s a groovy one with Indian percussion (dhol), soft ambient beats and classical vocals. What’s worth mentioning here, is what must be the first piece of English rapping (or is it scatting) on an Indian album that does not make you sweat with embarrassment. Now, please challenge me on that one if you know of another.

Atomizer also has a rock groove to it decked as it is with distorted guitars on one hand and what sounds to me like 80’s disco grooves on the other. A kinky kind of mix but which against all odds pulls it off. A good song to liven up the party with its dhol driven Punjabi vibe.

Drifting is your perfect night drive music with haunting Indian flute crossed over with guitars alá The Edge (the U2 one, not the wrestler). Sun Mere Sanam is your Bollywood interlude that could very well be the backround music to a romantic scene where everyone dances around a coconut tree (I’m writing this from Kerala). In any case a beautiful track with a warm soundscape and slightly industrial beat. Har Ek Baat is an atmosperic cut with Hindustani vocals and lyrics that sound to me like Urdu poetry of Mirza Ghalib. Lucky One is the chill out track with subtle but still danceable qualities.

The album ends with a very non-electric version of Electric Universe, which is essentially a slowed down version of the first track performed by Karsh Kale on acoustic guitar and vocals without the vocoder effect. One could say that it’s a slightly unnecessary track, but I quite like it, and it does not hurt the album whole in anyway. Light those candles.

There have been some complaints from certain quarters that this album doesn’t sound like the Punditz we got used to with the past two albums, but lets set the record straight. This CD has all the hallmarks of a punditz album but not just that, it also adds a new dimension to their sound along with shedloads of maturity and confidence. I feel this is the most quintessential Midival Punditz release to date. Have I said enough? I think I’ll shut up now.

You can buy the album from the amazon.com powered store by clicking here.

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