Review: Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti – Rakshasa

The closing bars of “Dhumaketu” – a frantic but impeccably synchronised climax of strings, guitar and tabla, comprised of panicked descents and sudden leaps between octaves that ping with a brisk, elasticated propulsion – could comfortably be translated into swooping guitar solos and explosive power-chords, bringing a symphonic heavy metal epic to a point of triumphant collapse. It’s an example of the album’s fluid and conversational attitude to tradition. Thacker’s creative drive is borderless, fusing a great respect and fascination for cultural origin with the acknowledgement that even deeply embedded musical values can be uprooted from their geographical source and rethreaded through an elsewhere. That being said, this isn’t a garish collision of the West and the East, and rather than merely tack genres together to answer a few self-indulgent “what if”s, Rakshasa is a much more hazy compound of influences; an unconscious swirling of ideas that just so happens to draw cultural diversity to a dazzling central point.

Virtuoso melodies unravel like ribbon, or like spontaneous conversation – the players catch a point between meticulous co-ordination and seemingly organic consequence, flowing up and down between pitch and tempo like a river within which each ripple and splash has been carefully pre-empted. The centrepiece is Terry Riley’s “SwarAmant”: a 14-minute argument between Thacker’s moody and nimble classical guitar runs and Jacqueline Shave’s spikes and swan-dives of violin, stooping to contemplative exchanges of quiet before a dizzying final minute of rapid-fire micro-notes. Yet not a moment of stiffness sets in to the music’s technical precision, and Rakshasa pours forth from relaxed limbs that warmly welcome each sudden slowdown or frantic burst of energy, channelling each moment as if it were a timely inevitability unfolding from the moment previous.