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Bombay Dub Orchestra

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Album Review

Bombay Dub Orchestra is the brainchild of two British producers, Andrew T. Mackay (a TV/film score composer and classical arranger who has worked with everyone from Herb Ritts to L.A. rock & roll outfit VAST) and producer Garry Hughes (Björk, Sly & Robbie) with master mixing engineer Daman Sood. They figured by bringing beats, keyboards, a full Indian string orchestra — 28 pieces strong, folks (12 violins, eight violas, and eight cellos) — some Indian session players, and a couple of killer vocal performances, they could make something really different in terms of chillout music. They were partially right. The beats here aren't new, and the accent on making music that is edgeless, warm, and "pretty" here can be a detriment in places as well as an asset. That said, it is effective in painting a certain musical picture, and not like Enigma, either. The press release cites Bollywood film soundtracks as being one of the project's directives, but there is little of that here. Mostly it's electronic exotica featuring this overwhelmingly beautiful string group who knows how to improvise on a melody and session players who can site read and improvise. The textures are impressive, as are the dynamics, and make up for the lack of beat originality. The word "dub" in the moniker offers a more direct view of what's going on with thrumming, bubbling bass riddims throughout that are loaded with reverb enough to make it trippy. With a huge group of string players, the word "lush" has got to come up somewhere, and there's no lack of it on this offering. That said, this ain't Enya, either. There is craft and precision and a distinct lack of danger in these proceedings, but the cross-cultural pollination happening on this set's 12 cuts works like mad. Standout cuts are "Rare Earth," "Feel," with amazing improvisational singing by Rakesh Pandit, and "The Berber of Saville" (one of two cuts here with irritating titles — the other is "Beauty and the East," ugh!). Khalid Kharchaf is an actual Berber from Morocco now living in London. The latter of the horribly titled tracks is the longest. It puts the string orchestra and a batch of Indian instruments and voices — played as well as sampled and scrambled — against electronic beats in a way that builds to something approaching cinematic scope in terms of dynamic and resolution. There is a second disc here, too, that features remixes — by the producers — of each of these cuts and indulges the dub aspects of them more directly. There are killer effects and stark soundscapes as well as some skittering drum'n'bass, and more adventurous uses of electronica on this set; some of these tracks could make it to someone else's remix. Mostly, what Bombay Dub Orchestra isn't is music for the club, or for kids. It's for adults listening at home or in small gatherings with the word "listening" being the primary word in the sentence. It has no street cred even if it aspires to. The sense of adventure on this project comes to listeners in terms of its sophistication in composition, arrangement, melody, and harmonic invention, while being completely accessible to a wide range of musical palettes.


Genre: World

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Bombay Dub Orchestra are not from Bombay, nor are they really a dub act, either, or even an actual orchestra, but the name has been used for the electro-Indian, ambient, chill-out soundscapes and melodies created by British composers and producers Garry Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay, along with mixing engineer Damon Sood. Built around electro beats and Indian instruments, then layered with sweetly flowing string orchestration, the team produces well-crafted and arranged chill-out melodies that feel...
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Bombay Dub Orchestra, Bombay Dub Orchestra
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