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Babbling Brook a compendium of articles reviews and interviews

Dream liner notes
by Michael Brook
[reprinted here without permission]

DreamOriginally the plan was to record a traditional album of Srinivas' music at the Real World Recording Week. When I got to Real World I sensed there was potential for experimental work as well, so I went through my musical sketch books looking for things that could be adapted for him and I started to do some preparatory work with my sampler. I recorded some ideas with cellist Caroline Lavelle and worked out sequences, backing tracks and rhythmic patterns that I thought would be interesting. This was before we had started any work with Srinivas.

The traditional record (Rama Sreerama) was recorded as a concert performance one evening and right after that we had a late night session where Srinivas and the violinist, Bhasakaran, played along with some of the sequences we had prepared.

On another evening Srinivas played with Nigel Kennedy and Nana Vasconcelos in the Big Room. Sometimes just the three of them played together and sometimes they responded to pre-recorded tracks. There was an audience for those sessions, so it was a bit of a performance, but generally we worked in a closed studio set-up.

There were certain themes and concepts around the making of the album but it was also very much "see what happens," with Srinivas as the focus. I wanted to hear the more introspective, meditative spirit that he reveals and which I think is a big part of Indian music. I thought that if we could do something a little more ambient involving Western ideas of atmospheric music, it would make a nice contrast to the traditional record. One of the big challenges of the record was to try and encapsulate the large contrast of styles from the frantic, almost heacy-metal sections to the extremely tranquil sections of music.

Prior to this Srinivas hadn't worked very much with electronics, but he was interested in innovative ways of recording. For example, he had never used echo before but clearly he was aware of some of the possibilities of the studio because he had composed a piece for the traditional record that counted on him overdubbing his parts. He had a spirit of willingness to try new things.

On "Dance" I wanted to achieve a dark, introspective mood so I had Srinivas and Bhasakaran play much more sparsely than they are used to and with the addition of some echo.

We got this system going where I played the role of a conductor and used hand signals to say, "Don't play, don't play - wait" or "Just play a little bit - then wait a little bit." At one point even Bhasakaran got involved in conducting and started to dance around and encourage a part that he particularly liked. That was a beautiful moment.

The evening that Nana Vasconcelos and Nigel Kennedy played in the studio with a small audience to a couple of rhythm tracks was electrifying because they are both kind of speed demons and they really got going.

This is quite a different and new way of recording music for me, where you grab moments with musicians and later turn them into pieces of music. It hasn't been technically possible or easy to do until recently. It is very much the direction my work is taking.

I had samples of things such as the sruti box which is like a harmonium but with no keyboard that just plays a drone over four notes. I had also played a melody on the metal stair railings at Real World Studios and sampled that! I played infinite guitar and buzz bass which are two instruments I have made.

I am interested in the ornamentation of Indian and Arabic music where a lot of attention goes into how you bend notes and how you get from one note to another, rather than what the notes are, which is maybe a more Western focus. The infinite guitar allows me to sustain a note forever if I want and to play melodies without necessarily having to pluck a string. It's interesting to play with Srinivas whose culture originally inspired this hybrid.

Other musicians added parts later and we used samples wuch as Tchad Blake's recordings from India of bicycle bells.

Once we finished the initial recording sessions it was very much, "Well, OK, we have got some amazing stuff strewn all over the floor, can we make something cohesive out of it?" there are elements of everything in it so we jokingly refered to it as an ambient-crossover-techno-fusion record!