The Ananda Shankar Experience and State of Bengal
The meeting of Ananda Shankar, a sitar player who released a handful of psychedelic eastern-rock albums in the 1960's and the UK's State of Bengal (a.k.a. Sam Zaman) was a short-lived musical collaboration this past summer of two like-minded groups. They may have been generations apart, but both in their own way experimented with eastern instrumentation married with western popular music. For example, Shankar recorded sitar versions of the Stones "Jumping Jack Flash" and The Doors "Light my Fire" back in his Haight-Ashbury days, while today State of Bengal is one of the UK's most prominent Asian underground collectives blending eastern percussion and melody with drum-and-bass. It was supposed to be a win-win proposition; Shankar adding acoustic warmth to electronic beats, while Bengal would lend some extra kick (and relevance) to an old shoe. Walking On is the unfortunate result, a wishy-washy mess of an album without direction or heart. Shankar's sitar playing is adroit and predictable, while the tablas and DJ breaks just bop along on auto pilot to the point of banality. To make it worse, a searing electric guitar competes with Shankar, who's sitar playing is already so drenched in western scales and ideas they're pointless. Even the live cuts (of which there are two) lack energy and imagination. Instead of aiding one another and pursuing new ideas, Shankar and State of Bengal cancel each other out. - Todd Dominey
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