[15 December 2003]
Anjali, better known as the lead singer for riot grrl group the Voodoo Queens in the early ‘90s, is back with another assortment of sounds, samples, and lounge lizard overtones. If you could bottle Jarvis Cocker and keep in him the same time as his early ‘80s work with Pulp, or This Is Hardcore mixed with Ravi Shankar, you might have an idea of where this album comes from. Anjali’s vocals are light like Minogue (Kylie or Dannii, take your pick), but there is more texture and context to each track. “Misty Canyon” is a great example of this, as Anjali sings over strings, Spaghetti Western touches, and other sampled pieces of music. It seems perfect “chill out” music with horns. It settles into a nice groove near the homestretch too, despite the slightly annoying repetition as it fades.
“Asian Provocateur” again has some of that ‘70s mystique to it, with the Spaghetti Western guitars mixed over a series of effects and horns. It is highbrow Motown, resembling Portishead on ecstasy in certain spots. The lush arrangements are not lost on the listener, as Anjali gives a smooth and sultry performance. “The World Of Lady A is a lot more confident and focused,” Anjali says in the bio. “Vocally it is better as my voice has progressed.” And she isn’t kidding here, as “Rainy Day” has a light, British ‘60s pop vocal to it. The Urge Overkill arrangement only embellishes the tune beautifully. It’s an orchestrated pop song that bands like Death By Chocolate could relate to. If there is one drawback, it tends to wane somewhat near the end.
“Turn It On!” turns the album on, a groove-heavy bass line that contains horns and more special spacey effects. It’s as if Dee Lite has returned for the new millenium. Anjali lets the instrumental move along without adding anything. It also possesses a James Bond-like tribal theme to it as Anjali laughs briefly. Another bonus is the surf-guitar overtone on “Seven X Eight”, a gorgeous ditty that could be mistaken for a Pulp Fiction tune. “So don’t come to me with your broken heart / I won’t mend it, I’ll just wring it out”, Anjali sings as the guitar glides along. She does go a tad over-the-top with the last verse, reaching notes that sound forced at best. “A Humble Girl” disappoints the listener, though, as the bland, Phil Collins-esque adult contemporary format is never taken seriously. Best leave it for Sarah Brightman!
The various mix of influences and styles means Anjali takes bits and pieces of different global styles. “Sati” is part Middle Eastern, part Spaghetti Western as she sings the song in a language other than English. It has a dreamy melody that is its saving grace as it seems to go on and on by the three minute mark. It’s Stereolab without a power supply, basically. “Hymn to the Sun” recaptures the simple beauty on the earlier tunes, bringing Sarah McLachlan or even Marianne Faithful to mind, as “I just hum my sunset lullaby”. As well, the track has the most trip-hop elements of any song here. “Ain’t No Friend” has dance hall remix written all over it, with the Depeche Mode-meets-New Order riff the catalyst for what danceable musical trek ensues a la Garbage.
The bass line to “Kandivali Gulley” is infectious and resembles Primal Scream circa Vanishing Point. Here the groove is early and often as Anjali adds ethereal solos over the primal-yet-eclectic arrangement. Austin Powers, eat your heart out! This is pure ‘60s sound mutated to fit today’s listener, including the sitar touches halfway through. “Rani of Jhansi” is probably the lamest track on the record, a harsh and sharp mix that is far too busy for anyone’s liking. It’s as if this was lifted from No Quarter, the “comeback” album by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. “Stinging Sitars X 9” contains a Fatboy Slim approach, with the guitars and sitars dueling over the song. This isn’t an album for everyone, but for people looking to branch out a bit, this will definitely do the trick.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/anjali-world/