Yorkston/Thorne/Khan - Everything Sacred - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Yorkston/Thorne/Khan - Everything Sacred

by Mark Steele Rating:6 Release Date:2016-01-20

An east-meets-west crossover seems a good notion, especially in the uniting three completely distinct artists from three distinct backgrounds. Though there surely is anticipation for these artists to conjure up something wonderful and meaningful, there is also the added possibility of the journey moving into waters of unfamiliarity and potentially being out of their depth. The three artists here are folk guitarist James Yorkston, Lamb double bassist with jazz leanings Jon Thorne, and, from New Delhi, sarangi master Suhail Yusuf Khan. To the uninitiated regarding North Indian classical music, a sarangi is a multi-stringed instrument not unlike the western violin.

Many groups and projects have gone before, some have succeeded and some have fallen by the wayside. The widely agreed birthing of North Indian and western music became mainstream news in the 1960’s through the Late Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and his huge influence upon The Beatles’ George Harrison, whilst innumerable western artists have dabbled religiously in attempting to integrate Indian melodic patterns into their repertoire via working with Indian artists or taking up a chosen instrument or vocal discipline. Taking up the challenge to blend genres from eastern and western traditions, seems to request an intense devotion and openly fruitful creativity, then from this earnest commitment has witnessed several successful artists, birth new and exciting distinct musical entities.

John McLaughlin firstly formed 70’s Jazz Fusion group The Mahavishnu Orchestra then pioneered the fusion group Shakti, consider also, The Trilok Gurtu Trio’s percussive fusion odysseys, the Late Qawaali King, Nasrat Fateh Ali Khan, pioneered what later became known as World Music through many collaborations with Peter Gabriel, further to this list in deserving a mention is Sitarist Chris Hale and Guitarist Pete Hicks with their krist bhajan group Aradhna. It only takes a step of faith out of the known, to discover there are many like-minded others. Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, with this debut, likewise seemingly appear to dip their toes in the same waters.

Everything Sacred combines 8 tracks to lead us on a pilgrimage and provides us with the opening offering of ‘Knotenchanz’ with Khan’s Sarangi with it’s definitive searching tone, anchored in the arms of Thorne’s floating bass,  with Yorkston’s guitar arpeggios sauntering alongside.

A cover of Ivor Cutler’s song ‘Little Black Buzzer’ could possibly be a reference to a mobile phone, mixing a Celtic melodic overlay,  accompanied by Irish vocalis Lisa O’ Neill, appendaged by Khan’s vocal scatting, while poignant lyrics recount a ramble into the hills, referencing cold rear ends and white faces. Within the tracks, Khan’s sarangi looms in the backdrop well. Following in a similar vein stylistically is ‘Song for Thirza’ possesses uncannily close Nick Drake style vocals underpinned by the combined drone aural backdrop of the three instruments, which is stretched to the title track and ‘Broken Wave’. ‘Vachaspati/Kaavya’ is a shadowy theme where the sarangi leads and the bass step forwards and backwards creating an anticipated suspense as to what could happen next.

Simple and arid sounds seem to dominate on the album, through the title track ‘Everything Sacred’ carries Yorkston’s vocals over a rustic arrangement. The 8 track closing offering ‘Blues Jumped the Goose’ shows oceanic guitar arpeggios caresses as though a soundtrack theme piece to a South American short film.

On this album there are obvious hallmarks of the musical backgrounds that these artists possess, which is evidently bias on many of the tracks. However, the styles of the three appear to struggle to mesh into a singular entity from which to extract unique and experimental compositions. There is a noted absence of percussion instruments, which could have the redefined the dynamics of the album. Everything Sacred may engage some folk, jazz and world music admirers, but it may be lost on those looking for fresh inspiration to lure them out of their musical comfort zones.

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