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Music Review: Nitin Sawhney – London Undersound

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Nitin Sawhney’s latest work is a riveting soundscape – a journey though a collaborative effort to give voice to a London that has been impacted by violent acts and a sense of fear.

Collaborating with a range of diverse artists from Ojos de Brujo to Rox, Faheem Mazhar to Paul McCartney, this album captures a beautifully tranquil mood that seems almost at odds with the intellectual subject matter that has driven the PR side of the album. Impacted by the London bus bombing on July 7, 2005 that one of the artists on the album (Natty) was actually present at, a conversation began from which Sawhney said “Natty, like myself, feels something indefinable has shifted… In a two week period the whole concept of London was overturned. And for me, it's remained overturned."

Trying to capture this shift, London Undersound starts with a powerful piece that exposes the contradictions that are being worked with immediately. Over an upbeat track that mimics the sound of a train, Natty talks about his experience following the mistaken killing of Jean Charles Menezes, the man mistaken for a suicide bomber in the Stockwell Tube station and shot by the Metropolitan Police.

From there the album continues on what feels like a positive but very mellow track through all sorts of music including a love song by Paul McCartney, some off-beat but up-beat drum and bass by Imogen that was recorded in places all over the city, and an original composition for acoustic guitar, flute, and cello which is a blend of influences from the East and West that begins to bring the album to a close. With beautiful voices, driving rhythms, and ambient instrumentals you can become lost in what starts to become a unique world of sound that takes you to a different world.

Trying to reconcile the relaxation that came over me listening to the album with the hard subject matter, it occurred to me that Sawhney said it best when he pointed out that “It's music that washes away all the impurities that can populate your mind."

With its digital release on August 25th and appearing on shelves September 15th on E1 Music, this is an album that is poised to be a staple on your stereo and may well be recognized as one of the best constructed collaborative albums of all time.

About Justin Handley