Nitin Sawhney Human

With seven studio albums to his name, Nitin Sawhney is one of the most prolific fusionists out there. Unfortunately, his recent output falls below the mark of his early recordings. He’s recycling concepts that have become way too familiar to be considered innovative: i.e., the newsreel sound bites on racism; the "muted self” artwork on the cover, and the meta-narrative of angst amidst a world of ignorance and injustice. In a post-9/11 atmosphere, some of his insights are relevant and beautifully conceived. The only problem is in their vocal execution. Most of the singers (especially the Anglophones) lack the confidence to truly express Sawhney’s point of view. There are some exceptions. Soul stylists Taio and Kevin Mark Trail have a bold, inspired and urgent vibe, and the usual desi chorus of Jayanta Bose, Reena Bhardwaj and Davinder Vikhyat Singh continue to be on point. Sawhney’s arrangements are, however, a mixed bag. He’s a master at syncing up sounds from different genres, cultures and languages, but with Human, he caters towards a safe, adult contemporary aesthetic. And unlike previous recordings, there is only one instrumental: "Raag.” With its joyous interplay of Hindustani flute work and pumping house beats, it’s one of the best cuts on the album. "Eastern Eyes” is similarly animated by clubby, Brazilian rhythms. Given that Sawhney’s been DJing lately, it’s a wonder that he doesn’t play on these grooves more often. (V2)