Bombay Royale boogies Bolllywood, Bennett/Wright mind-boggle
The Bombay Royale
The Island of Dr. Electrico
At the beginning of the film Ghost World, the main character Enid Coleslaw has a rapturous experience watching a VHS bootleg of a wonderfully insane dance sequence for the Indian rock song “Jaan Pehechan Ho” from a ’60s Bollywood film and is inspired to try to find more like it.
If you want more of something, one solution is to make it yourself, which is what the Australian group The Bombay Royale has done, by trying to replicate certain styles of ’60s/’70s Bollywood rock/pop songs. The band has covered notable Bollywood tracks, including the aforementioned “Jaan Pehechan Ho,” but its new album The Island of Dr. Electrico features original material.
It’s fair to ask why this group should exist at all, when listeners can simply dig up Bollywood classics to enjoy, and this writer has two responses. Firstly, modern Bollywood soundtracks have adopted modern beats and sounds (aside: the Carmike East Ridge 18 regularly screens new Bollywood movies, and this writer highly recommends checking one out for a culture blast) so the band is carrying the classic Bollywood rock/pop torch and also allowing it to be heard in live settings.
Secondly, The Bombay Royale focuses on a particular aesthetic strain, with prominent ’70s funk influences; not all ’60s Bollywood tunes are as crazily ecstatic and incredible as “Jaan Pehechan Ho,” and the band’s attitude is to really go for bombast and making an impression. If anything, The Bombay Royale seems to be like the Bollywood equivalent of The Budos Band, which is the Staten Island group with its unique take on retro-soul/funk.
Nestled in its 11-member lineup is a killer horn section, multi-instrumentalist Josh Bennett on tabla and sitar, a solid rhythm section and the two lead singers Parvyn Kaur Singh (a.k.a. “The Lady”) and Shourov Bhattacharya (a.k.a. “The Tiger”) singing in Hindi and Bengali. There are disco-synth infusions, and the ensemble’s deep-funk capabilities can be heard on tracks like “(Give Me Back My) Bunty Bunty,” sung partially in English; the pimptastic title track sports unabashed wah-wah-guitar licks and furious conga beats.
This very well might be the album that Enid Coleslaw—and any off-kilter musicologists—has been looking for.
Ben Bennett / Jack Wright
Free improvisation—that is, improvising without a genre in mind—is perhaps the last frontier of music by design, promoting constant and persistent innovation while also simultaneously being difficult listening due to its lack of structure or need to have any repeatable melody or rhythm.
However, what free improv is particularly good at is inspiring specific moods and imparting the sonic personalities of its performers, unfettered. The album at hand, Tangle, brings together two notable and distinctive improvisers: saxophonist Jack Wright—now in his 70s and still going strong—and percussionist Ben Bennett, who is Wright’s junior by decades.
The two have been in the trio Rotty What with Ben’s father John and also the trio Wrest with double-bassist Evan Lipson, and the duo configuration on Tangle seems to be carefully poised, with Wright heard primarily in one stereo channel and Bennett heard primarily in the other, presenting a sonic separation that allows the listener to understand exactly who is playing what sound, even when the players confusingly make similar sounds despite having dissimilar instruments.
Tangle features three tracks that are each roughly 20 minutes long, and the prevailing mood is that of tight, jittery nervousness, like the aural equivalent of crab-sized bionic spiders crawling all over a person’s exposed flesh. “Embroiled” has a multitude of abrupt, sharp moments, as if the two were sparring with each other in a boxing ring; Wright unleashes a mind-boggling variety of challenging sounds, like multi-phonics, a violent sucking sound and inhuman snorts.
Being Neil Peart’s exact opposite, Bennett wrings as many sounds as possible from a relatively small amount of equipment, all of which could probably fit in a duffel bag. Everything isn’t forced; Bennett seems to coax out drum pitter-patters with his fingertips or subtle noises from broomsticks, but he also has abrasive turns, using thin rods for metal-on-metal squeaking, scraping, rattling and junkyard scrambling.
As always, Wright brings surprises to his playing, refusing to fall into a rut; here, at various times, he whinnies, sounds vulnerable and wounded, chatters through his sax, snarls and also manages to sound like a sped-up tape recording. It’s a bumpy ride for those who like to know exactly what they’re getting, but adventurous sound-lovers will find much to enjoy here.