DJ Cheb I Sabbah Shri Durga

There's an East-West soundclash on DJ Cheb I Sabbah's debut album, but it doesn't nauseate the listener the way most fusion recordings often tend to do. He's kept his mix simple, by leaving the Indian parts to classical musicians, while he “remixes” their performances with slight touches of reverb, slow dub-grooves and soundscape recordings of rainfall, wildlife and prayer-gatherings at temples. Cheb's studio technique is gentler than most. He refuses to overdose the mix with psychedelic dub, and beautifully preserves the vocals, as well as the performances on sarangi and sarod, in a way that brings out their organic resonance. The most impressive part about "Shri Durga" is Cheb's timing and use of space. Each track is laid out in a way so that the sounds “breathe” through the mix, and travel in the meditative way that they might in a classical raga recital. Unfortunately, his slightly Orientalist obsession with Hindu iconography often bring the mystical themes of the album down to a level of cliché. There's a strong respect for Hindu and Islamic spirituality, but it's too overwhelmed to intelligently tap into that universal element that makes all people religious in their spirituality, be it inside or outside the temple. The failure to make those connections, unfortunately, makes the album sound like Hari Krishna music in dub. (Six Degrees)