Amyt Datta’s work is for no casual listener. The prolific nature of his work is no surprise to anyone who is acquainted with the Indian offshoots of experimental music. He began fiddling with the combination of uncharacteristic and apparently incompatible sounds before the recent popularity of Porcupine Tree and Opeth made it cool. In his latest outburst of musical genius, Datta pairs up with Pinknoise and Skinny Alley drummer, Jivraj Singh to create the album that is bound to raise standards for musicians all over the country.
Ambiance de Danse is, like most of Datta’s work, unpredictable. Unlike Pinknoise, which creates an atmosphere reminiscent of lounge music groups like Pink Martini or Lemongrass peppered with Indian condiment and effectively bellies their technical expertise, or Skinny Alley that tries to draw from a mellowed down jazz-based, Dizzie Gillespie slash Glorybox-ish ethic, Ambiance de Danse takes on a more aggressive avatar. Wholly instrumental, the songs are endlessly expressive. They mostly utilize a dominant synth sound which is accentuated and manipulated by subtle string work and muted drums. Take ‘Ironic Bironic’, for instance, it is a harrowing amalgam of sounds that are representative of emotional responses. The choral sound is easily appropriate for a 90s Broadway musical, something along the lines of the Rocky Horror Show.
The thing about Ambiance de Danse is that most of the tracks seem less meant to catch the listener’s sense of “groove” and more to elicit some kind of deeper emotive reaction. The songs all feature the same kind of sound but their arrangement is explosively different. ‘Camellia’ features a more ‘romantic’ sweep of guitar work punctuated by non-melodic sounds that rapid deflection of musical mood from wistful to cautious and back. Psychedelic influences are scattered throughout the album. ‘Electric Insenity’ and ‘Tymas Twins’ may feature a speedier progression than common, but the revolving sounds and the constant use of an extended background tone produces the unconventional primal sound psychedelia demands.
‘Dance Acoustica’ begins with a Carnatic sound and has the most noticeable and straightforward rhythm in the album. But, it is hardly simplistic. In every song, Datta and Singh establish their sound in a certain key and then take turns diverging from it and swerving off it, making the sound not just uncommon, but downright delightful. ‘Ambiance de Danse’, the eponymous track, literally forces you to expect the unexpected in about a thousand ways.
The clarity of the instruments creates a strange effect. Each sound in a song is heard distinctly, and yet all these sounds complement each other perfectly to form a flawless unit. If one listens closely, the songs have been embellished with a multiplicity of little sounds which enable the creation of a specific …ambience, allowing the songs simultaneous specificity as well as spontaneity.
Both Datta and Singh have retained their signature styles, while departing completely from their previous compositions. Jivraj brings his dirty industrial inclination into the music while Amyt wanders into the alleys of boundless dissonance and exploration. They come together in a flurry of improvisational-sounding pieces that , even without words, makes perfect sense to those who can listen and associate.
I wouldn’t call the album flawless, no album, not even Thriller or In Utero, ever has been. The sounds may seem repetitive, and it does take a while to settle into the music that makes use of no catchy chorus or an immediately likeable beat. But for the serious listener, Ambiance de Danse spins its flaws into merits. In fact, to get a feel of their intent, I would recommend the video for Ironic Bironic, crafted by Yoshi Sodeoka. This album guarantees a trip for your insight and intellectual aesthetics, but only when you decide to reach beyond any idea of literal interpretation.