Album: Holy Science

Artist: Amirtha Kidambi Elder Ones

Label: Northern Spy

Release Date: November 11, 2016


The Upshot: A strange, haunting, spiritual journey limned in long unspooling tones. And check the gorgeous colored vinyl.


Amirtha Kidambi weaves eerie drones of harmonium and unearthly vocal croons, moans, squawks and slides into textures that are not quite jazz nor the Indian classical music she’s trained in or even an amalgam of the two, but rather an indefinable spiritual journey limned in long unspooling tones. Her four track cycle traces the Hindu cycle of Yugas or ages, the opener dedicated to the golden age of “Satya Yuga” swelling with reedy, overtone laced harmonium blares and elegiac but wordless singing.

“Treta Yuga, “ the disc’s longest outing, follows a jazz-like groove, with Brandon Lopez picking out a rumbling upright bassline, while Mike Jaffee shuffles and reshuffles a staccato percussive groove. Kidambi’s clear voice picks syncopated paths through odd sharp-cornered melodies, stringing blank syllables (“fa,” “te”, “me”) together in unexpected rhythms and combinations. Matt Nelson interjects and contradicts her melodies playing a soprano saxophone; the two of them spin out into dissonant directions, then come together, then dart away again. The third piece “Dwapara Yuga,” is dedicated to a decadent third age and also to Black Lives Matter martyr Eric Garner; it opens in melancholy contemplation, but soon stirs to anger, with Kidambi’s singing growing more explosive, Nelson’s sax blurts more fractious, as the piece develops. “Kali Yuga” ushers in the final age of destruction, which sets the stage for eventual rebirth, and I’d guess that’s about where we are now. It moves again to the slow reverberations of harmonium, the low notes massing like sea fog, while the higher tones trace ritual patterns. It echoes, more than the others, the themes of the opening “Yuga” coming full circle towards resolution.

Powerful stuff.

DOWNLOAD: “Dwapara Yuga (for Eric Garner)”


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