Auntie Flo and Sarathy Korwar’s new album, Shruti Dances, is a work of hypnotic genius from a master of sound and a master of rhythm. Auntie Flo is Brian D’Souza, a Scottish-Goan producer and DJ who had previously collaborated with Korwar when asked to remix the track ‘Mumbay’ from his 2019 album More Arriving (see my Joyzine review). Sarathy Korwar is a trained classical tabla player whose love of jazz led to a melding of western and South Asian styles and rhythms in his music.
Shruti Dances came about as a result of a mutual friend, Mixcloud co-founder Nikhil Shah, who wanted D’Souza and Korwar to make something for his Make Music label which was looking to establish their move into live and electronic music. Discussions about the project led to a combination of traditional instrumentation, meditation and improvisation centred around the shruti box, a harmonium-like instrument that produces a drone. D’Souza says “I’ve spent the last two years studying sound therapy and immersing myself in ambient and drone through the Ambient Flo project and am particularly interested in how they can induce meditative states of consciousness. I was really excited to hear what the Shruti box could do with this album.”
The six tracks ‘Dha’, ‘Pa’, ‘Ga’ ‘Ma’ ‘Ni’, and ‘Sa’ are named after 6 of the 7 main musical notes in the Indian solfege system and each one has a distinct personality with the ebb and flow of swirling sound and percussion. There are the pulsing electronics and tabla raindrops on ‘Dha’, the “Balearic shuffle” of ‘Pa’, the flowing sub-aquatic vibe of ‘Ga’ that builds like a sea creature about to break the surface, ‘Ma’ which vibrates like a summer sky with Murmurations of starlings, ‘Ni’ which has arpeggiated leaves rising and falling, caught in a mini-whirlwind and finally ‘Sa’ which floats you gently off on a lazy river surrounded by bird-filled trees.
Shruti Dances is a mesmeric joy from start to finish and it feels like Auntie Flo and Sarathy Korwar are jamming with the harmonic frequency of the universe. Tracks shift subtly, slowing the heart rate or quickening the pulse in equal measure. The pair aren’t just playing with the electronic and percussive but also plugging a mixing desk into our alpha and beta waves. It’s gloriously immersive and as transformative as a sonic shower for the mind. I hope this leads to many more collaborations between the two and if they remake Close Encounters of the Third Kind, then this is how they should communicate with the aliens.
Review by Paul F Cook