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Album Review

Like house music and hardcore, yoga music tends to be functional first and musical second. It does bear a certain relationship to the classical Indian music to which it usually refers: ragas are generally written to evoke particular moods or times of day, and the music sold to Western listeners to assist in meditation is also designed to create a particular mood. But where classical Indian music is complex and sophisticated in structure, yoga music tends to be simple, even simplistic, and to let certain sounds (the fluttering beats of a tabla, the keening plucked notes of a sitar or sarod) act as facile referents to a musical tradition that it never comes close to really exploring. Whether this music works in a spiritual sense is a question beyond the scope of a CD review, but in purely musical terms, it tends to be a disappointment. Jaya Lakshmi's Sublime is, in many ways, typical of the genre: the melodies are simple and have much more to do with Western new age music than with the Asian influences to which it refers, the beats are straightforward and gently funky, the basslines are faintly reggae-flavored, and the vocals are richly layered and beautifully sung. Lakshmi's voice is unusually lovely, and tracks like "Shiva Shankara" and especially the melodically inventive "Om Gurave" showcase it beautifully. But elsewhere the album lapses into the kind of soft focus mysticism that seems designed to gently and soothingly distract the listener from its lack of musical content. And on "Jai Ma" the sarod is out of tune, which tends to break the spell. Not bad, but not essential.

Sublime, Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda
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