Tuesday, 30 July 2013

4 star Review of Agam by Stuart Masters & Rishi Ranjan in Songlines issue 94

Stuart Masters & Rishi Ranjan - Agam

Anglo-Indian guitar and sarod duo with hidden depths.

This is an enjoyable, if not shatteringly novel, collaboration between a couple of musicians who met by chance in a West London bookshop. Rishi Ranjan is a classically trained Indian sarod player , while Stuart Masters is a guitarist who has a folk and Western classical background but also knows his way round Indian and Arabic modes. The result is a relaxed disc that sounds like a superior home recording, which finds a very nice balance between more serious moody atmospherics and the playfully expressive. 'Serenity' is, as it sounds, a beautifully tranquil and expressive piece, while the title-track has considerable forward momentum and shows the duo trading some tricky melodic licks backed by a guest table player.
Other tracks on this instrumental album reach for a more spiritual and mysterious atmosphere, such as 'It's Rising' and Midday'. Only rarely, as in 'Gaur Sarang' does the album veer a little too close to what sounds like an academic exercise in exchanging scales. Mostly it is confidently well played and just virtuosic enough to avoid falling into the show-off ego-trip trap that fusion albums fronted by star players are often prey to. The overall impression is rather of a friendly, civilised musical conversation across genres , a dialogue that allows each musician enough space to have their respective say. Overall, this is a warm, vibrant and refreshingly unpretentious disc; while it might not break that much new ground it will considerably brighten a gloomy day.

Peter Culshaw

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