Multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Nitin Sawhney is back with his tenth studio album and as you might expect from someone so critically acclaimed, the bar is high. With the growing hostility towards immigrants as an underlying theme, ‘Dystopian Dream’ is an intelligent record flirting with musical genres in characteristically atmospheric fashion.
‘Fires’ provides a nice chilled start with easy guitar picking, down tempo beats and a pensive bass line adding texture to the hooky vocal. The moody vibe continues on the first track to feature Eva Stone, ‘Days R Gone’, which is a little darker with its slow grinding beats. Eva is back later, on ‘Silence’; its chilled out piano and lovely beats very easy on the ear.
There are plenty of other guest collaborators but they come further down the line, in the meantime we get crisp beats and slide guitar on ‘Dark Day’, the soundtrack vibe of ‘Timetrap’ and the bluesy house beats of ‘Lose us All’, which is vaguely reminiscent of Moby.
The first male vocal comes from Akala on ‘Dystopia’ and it’s suitably disjointed, giving a sinister edge to the rolling desert storm beats and moody synths. Other elements of Sawhney’s style come through on the jungle-esque ‘Scape’ and the most Asian track of the record, ‘Tere Khyal’, whose multi-vocal chants convey deep emotion.
However, it’s the latter half of the album that has the most high points; there’s the badass performance from Stealth on ‘When I’m Gone’ and the flamenco guitar, break beats and Indian vibe vocal from Natacha Atlas on ‘Can’t Breathe’. Meanwhile, ‘Keep the Light On’ finds Joss Stone on form, her soulful voice suits the bluesy acoustics and jazzy piano equally well; there’s a nice contrast between the bar room feel and the jungle-y beats. The high point for me though is the quite stunning vocal from J’Danna on ‘Redshift’, the rough edges and jazzy soul feel to her voice over the clever bass beats nothing short of sublime.
There are one or two moments when Nitin could maybe hold back a little; the overly textured ‘Dimension’, featuring Bernhard Schimpel, being a bit irritating actually, although it does work in context, and sometimes there is so much going on in a track music wise that it crowds the raw emotion of the vocal a little.
Even so, Nitin Sawhney’s talent is undeniable and once more he has come up with a highly accomplished, mature sounding record, soundtracking the disquiet of modern life; good stuff!