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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recording review - Govinda, Resonance (2012)

Fluid violin against vibro-tronic bass grind builds a mysterious tension

Last year, Govinda (Shane O Madden) made my best of 2011 list with his impressive album, Universal On Switch. On his latest offering, Resonance, Madden continues to develop his sound, taking his gypsy violin and electronic grooves into a darker, bass heavy direction. Like Beats Antique, Govinda is rooted in an exotic world-tronica mix of produced sound, layered acoustic instruments, and foreign beats. But Govinda emphasizes the electronic production more than Beats Antique, giving his tracks a more experimental edge.

Govinda's production is stellar on Resonance. He builds a great 3-d sonic footprint in his tracks, where individual layers stand out from one another and slight EQ differences suggest distance and depth. On Sonic Muse, the individual parts -- the intro voice sample ("Follow me [giggle]"), the twinkling music box notes, the pizzicato notes of main groove -- remain distinct and suggest a wide auditory vista. The basic groove features a deep bubbling bass and sharp accents against a solid trance beat. Indian strings and drums, gypsy violin, and processed fragments of chanted voice all add to the foreign vibe of the piece, but the electronic sound dominates. Madden's violin weaves in and out of the mix with a fluid grace, but the track's structure remains geometrically centered.

The rich vocals on Plant the Seed or Clan of Love are a logical outgrowth from Universal On Switch's Myself. The jam on Plant the Seed gets a lot darker and glitch-driven, but Rosey's sultry voice is the common link:
Put the seed under your tongue
In the Springtime, I will come
Do you feel me grow inside of you?
Let love blossom, let love come through
Rosey is languid and seductive, giving the song a warm, jazzy flavor along with the sentimental strains of violin, but the glitchy music underneath seethes, unsettled. All too soon, the heady syncopation lurking within the electronic foundation grows restless and spawns a grinding bass line. The hint of dub step shifts into a smoother trance vibe that chills out the song into a trippy wind-down.

Resonance is best appreciated with closed eyes, so the listener can be immersed and surrender to the drifting electronic elements. On Candle Fire, Govinda sets a house groove where Indian instruments mesh with the electronic parts to build an exotic, abstract feel. The song develops into the album's iconic bass grind sound. Shimmering chimes, bowed strings, and whistling synth accents all slip in and out of the rasping, vibro-tronic current. Irina Mikhailova's chanting vocals offer a softer contrast to the saw-wave bass. Even with the rhythm hanging back, the track's intensity feeds a climbing tension.

Rounding out the female vocal contributions on the album, Krystyn Pixton offers a cool fem-pop sound on Clan of Love. Pixton's voice is dreamy, but Govinda processes her singing to fit the rolling sound of the tune. The spare, spacious intro yields to an electronic groove with a reggae beat. "I want your crazy/ Want your chaos wind on me." The assortment of parts fit together into a smooth whole, but there's an elemental randomness at work: touches of reggae bubble next to a fiddle melody with a Highlands vibe, and glitch cuts chop the song into Cubist slices. The resulting house of cards seems expertly balanced.

Govinda retains his trance grooves on Resonance, but this is an edgier offering than Universal On Switch. The rattling bass is a strong contributor, but the mix of soft and hard gives the new album a different, mysterious feel. There's greater complexity that pulls this music into the foreground.

Resonance is available on Govinda's Bandcamp page.

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