(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CD review - Govinda, Universal On Switch (2011)

Despite having some strong musicians in the genre, America is hardly ground zero for electronic music. Listening to Universal On Switch, it's surprising that such a beautifully exotic blend of world music and electronic jams came out of Austin's Govinda. The band is the alter ego of producer and composer Shane O Madden, who partners with Yasmin and Mirabai to create rich dance/music performances.

The rich balance of acoustic and electronic sounds defines Govinda's unique blend. Shane O layers gypsy tinged violin over a mix of downtempo, trancestep, and ambient grooves. Some of the tracks feature warm, R&B style vocals and occasional glitching. Unmoored from any kind of e-purity, Universal On Switch is chameleon-like, aiming primarily for mood and feel. A host of Indian and Mideastern touches add to the alluring sound. This is fusion world-tronica.

The title track is awesome. The snaky, meandering melody clings to the steady beat, teasing between India and the Mideast. Electronic elements creep in, with glitchy vocals and bass grind creating a rich trance groove. The trance vibe shits into more of a dub step feel to change the energy. So much is going on that Universal On Switch seems much longer than its 5 minute run time.

Similarly, Hungry sets up an Indian trance groove that combines vocal riffing on an Indian rhythm exercise, traditional instruments, and electronic trappings. The fluid gypsy minor violin riffs meld with the jangly tension of the electro-beat. The mix of old and new - acoustic and electric - create a sense of novelty that carries through the whole track.

Universal On Switch also has some more pop friendly tracks. Angel Freezing sets up a slightly auto-tuned vocal drifting over an electro-pop beat and a kitchen sink of electronic tricks. Myself sets up a chill trance groove mashed up with an R&B vocal line.

Govinda is deft at mixing of disparate elements to create striking, cohesive songs. The underlying intent of Universal On Switch was to create a testament to Madden's late partner, Andrea Burden. Just like every person's life is a tapestry of differing elements and perspectives, this album offers varying facets over time. It's comfortable enough to carry as a background soundtrack, yet it stands up to focused listening as well. Like spiced chai with honey and rose water, subtle details continue to surprise me.


  1. This is an excelent review. I'm just listening to the album and he is totally correct.

    This album rocks!

  2. Thanks for the kind words. This is still one of my favorite albums of the year.