BY MARK JENKINS
Bombay Dub Orchestra’s Three Cities, released three years ago, was titled after the ones where it was recorded: Mumbai (aka Bombay), Chennai (aka Madras) and London, close to home for the project’s British masterminds, Andrew T. Mackay and Garry Hughes. But Arab influences had begun to infiltrate the duo’s downtempo mashup of traditional Eastern musics and Jamaican-British electro-dub.
The group’s latest album was recorded in eight locales, only two of them in India. That a Middle Eastern flavor is even more conspicuous this time can be surmised from the set’s title: Tales from the Grand Bazaar. Inspired by Turkey’s great metropolis, the album features quanun player Aytac Dogan, oud player Cem Yildiz and the Istanbul Strings Group. But it also enlists reggae’s most famous rhythm section, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, and encompasses Egyptian pop, Bollywood scores and ambient/new age lullabies.
The result is impeccably performed and skillfully assembled, yet far from revelatory. “Blue Mosaic” is a pleasant sort of Silk-Road-to-the-Caribbean travelogue, and the synth-dominated “A Time of Beauty” is the most soothing of the album’s several chilled-way-out tracks. But producers (mostly Western European ones) have been whipping up this sort of tasteful transglobal froth for a couple of decades now, and Mackay and Hughes don’t add anything fresh to the genre. Their juxtapositions fail to surprise, let alone offer insight into the various styles collaged here. For the Bombay Dub Orchestra, world music is just a cafeteria, not a university.
DOWNLOAD: “Blue Mosaic,” “A Time of Beauty”