Karsh Kale Liberation

The first thing that hits you about Karsh Kale’s new album is that it’s both harder and softer than Realize or any of the other works the prolific drummer/tablaji/producer has done in the past. The push to both extremes is registered well on the title track. The drums rip out, metallic guitars riff in and the Madras Chamber Orchestra (most likely the same cats who’ve recorded with Jolly Mukherjee, Talvin Singh and countless Indian films) thunder a Wagnerian arrival. Then there’s "Milan,” a nine-minute meditation on (transcontinental as well as personal) movement, featuring similar elements in harmony along with Zakir Hussain soloing subtle, yet swift, phrases on tabla. The contrasts make Liberation an engaging listen and it shows Kale really finding his own sound outside the Asian Massive tag. Beyond the East-West/traditional-digital frame, there’s also a rediscovery of the artist’s youth, such as with the U2-ish guitar chiming on "Break of Dawn.” The melodic bounce of "Dirty Fellow” reinvents Low Life-era New Order with distorted tabla, while its vocodered lyrics ("Hey Mr. DJ/ Can you play me that song/That goes na dhin dhin na”) sum up the lighter side of growing up as a Desi-American in the ’80s. (Six Degrees)