Just when you think you’re running out of fuel to daydream, Aman Jagwani’s brand new album is here to keep us afloat. The 7-tracked collaborative project with Anubha Kaul is a follow-up to his 2019 full-length Essentially Entangled.
The album title “This Place” is a playful derivation of the word ‘displace’. As the jazz and neo-soul artist deliberates, “the song is essentially telling the listener to adapt and displace from the place they’re in, to their better or ideal place.” Aman explains how each track of the album conveys this message in its own way. “In the drum performance, I am constantly displacing the rhythms and motifs. Then in the middle, there is a transition section that displaces a little chunk of the verse melody into a 5/8 time signature.”
While Jagwani’s live jazz sensibilities remain consistent in both, ‘This Place’ seems to be slightly more accessible as compared to ‘Essentially Entangled’. The first track, This Place, sets off with a short but effective build-up, prepping the listener for a certain voluminosity that surrounds the record. Sonically, two factors make this record so undeniably rich. One, Anubha’s rich and sultry vocal styling, and two, the powerful flugelhorn solos from Milena Casado. The 6-minute track This Place peaks at its bridge, where Casado’s evocative solo paints the already lush soundscape, a hopeful, wide multi-dimensional tint.
A nostalgic streak from ‘This Place’ bleeds into Elastic Slumber, as Kaul chants along with the bass, “Weaving in and out / Of a blue wonderland / Where even dreams morph / Into reality”. As much as her powerful vocals are an instrument of their own, the flugelhorn often steals the spotlight. Dreamy vocals backed with frenzied drums, Elastic Slumber, the longest song of the album, delivers the promise of fantasy land.
Palm Tree features a refreshing blend of euphoric synth keys and a dancing bassline. Paired with a vocal duet, the lyrics paint a serene picture – “Oh palm tree / Won’t you sway with me / Oh calm tree / You are so free” – a longing all too familiar to many in these trying times. The fourth track, Rain on My Shelter, is an original by Anubha. With lyrics that express her discomfort at the pace of the modern world (“Can we slow down / I’m all out of breath, let me breathe”), this track’s a treat for those mesmerized by her ethereal voice.
The album arguably reaches its glory at the fifth track as it presents a hypnotic Glow. Featuring feverish drums and fast-paced synths, the song embodies a strange union of melancholy and glee. Glow leaks of drama and still has an air of accessibility around it, making it the most groovy track on the album. Now comes close, but its ever-changing soundscape turns it into somewhat of a more obscure and inconsistent nature. (“I am breaking, shaking, evading, the light / So show me, save me”)
Tying it all together is the album’s final track, ‘Breakthrough’. All sonic facets of the album are united into a carefully curated fiasco – abstract spaces and plenty of improvisation take over in this finale. Aman shares, “I find the experience of improvisation extremely exciting. The philosophy of jazz – to create, connect, innovate, inspire and break barriers really resonates with me.”
Jagwani brings together various musical experiences from his musical career in his sophomore album, and it shows. While diving into an ocean of symphonies and words that constitute its entirety, the sonic scenes across the album crafted with trained expertise leave room for the listener to crawl inside his stories and make them their own.
This Place can be an overwhelming, guilty pleasure of a daydream. The album oozes virtuosity and ambition, coming at par with some of the year’s most competent independent releases.
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