Auntie Flo & Sarathy Korwar: Shruti Dances review – India meets Ibiza

·2 min read

Drummer and composer Sarathy Korwar has made a career of unifying unexpected collaborators. His 2016 debut album, Day to Day, featured the folk music of the Sidi community from rural Gujarat, mixing west African rhythms with Indian classical melodies, while 2017’s ARE Project was freeform jazz-dance with electronic producer Hieroglyphic Being and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. 2019’s More Arriving, meanwhile, paired Mumbai rap with tabla and drumkit interplay.

Now Korwarteamsup with DJ and producer Brian d’Souza, AKA Auntie Flo, for this dancefloor-focused take on Indian classical. Much like the unfurling repetition of a raga, Shruti Dances plays out as a trance-inducing sequence over its six tracks, underpinned throughout by a drone produced from a shruti box, while Korwar notes time with a thumping 4/4 kick drum and electronically processed tabla rhythms.

Running at just under 30 minutes, it is like a mini DJ set: we begin uptempo, with the techno-adjacent rhythmic regularity of Dha, before slowing to the swirling melodic ambience of Ga and Ma, achieving Balearic euphoria via D’Souza’s arpeggiated synths on Ni, and then closing on the pensive warm-down of Sa.

The duo format, and the fact that all melody is electronic, gives Shruti Dances a certain rigidity – something that was loosened by Hutchings’ breathy saxophone on the ARE Project. Where that record was composed of edited snippets from a sprawling live improvisation, Shruti Dances is tightly constructed, placing the listener within the consistent grid of dance music, and the rhythmic minimalism of Korwar’s drumming can be claustrophobic.

Within repetition, though, there is difference; repeat the same word and its sense will dissolve into something new. Korwar’s precise rhythms attune us to d’Souza’s subtle melodic changes, from splashy major chords on Ni to the spatial panning of Sa. Their collaboration challenges us to surrender to the ritualistic propulsion of their music; this is ultimately best experienced on a dancefloor – whether out-out or homemade.

Also out this month

Ghanaian Frafra singer Linda Ayupuka releases an uptempo blend of choral chants and sparkling, 80s electro synths on God Created Everything (Mais Um). Burkinabe singer Kaito Winse joins forces with Brussels noise punk duo Benjamin Chaval and Nico Gitto as Avalanche Kaito, for their self-titled debut (Glitterbeat) – Winse’s voice soars over Chaval’s thrashing drums, an energising blend that has ample capacity to get darker and more distorted. Thai sound artist Liew Niyomkarn’s latest album, I Think of Another Time When You Heard It (Chinabot), is a beautifully calming, ambient soundscape made up of lyres and field recordings from her home town: a nostalgic blur of memory music.

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