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Star Rise review
from Spin, February 1998
by Will Hermes
[archived here without permission]

Star RiseFirst time I heard Natalie Cole sing that duet with her dead papa, I knew this remixing business was onto some Faustian shit: Give a DJ a computer and some master tapes and she'll give you musical immortality. Since he was both a spiritual and practical man, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan surely understood this transaction when he began offering his voice up to the loop crew.

It wasn't always easy - on 1991's Magic Touch, Bally Sagoo led the maestro into cheesy acid jazz, and when making Mustt Mustt, producer / Eno protege Michael Brook inadvertently turned the singer's Sufi poetry into gibberish with a few errant vocal edits. But Khan stayed the course, determined to send his message of ecstatic love worldwide, and the result is that you'll probably hear him chanting "jhoole jhoole lal" in Asian-diaspora dancehalls until hell deferentially freezes over.

So don't sneer at Star Rise as a quick cash-in on the great singer's death last August. In fact, the record was mostly completed by then, and features work by the best of the Anglo-Asian underground-DJs and musicians who grew up with Khan the way first-wave hip-hoppers did with, say, Barry White. That said, these remixes are a grab bag. Indi-ravers Joi lead with some stomping, multi-tracked psychedelia; Aki Nawaz gives Khan the ethno-industrial, monster-dub treatment; and Nitin Sawhney rolls an ambient drum'n'bass joint that sends the singer careening through space like some holy asteroid.

Since the source material for these remixes - collaborations with Brook - were fusions themselves, there's no strict tradition to revere. But some tracks try to reclaim one: Talvin Singh's sparse "My Heart, My Life" replaces the original's West African kora with Indian santoor, and Black Star Liner's post-bhangra "My Comfort Remains" trades trip-hop kit drums for tablas and a funky Hindi bassline. At times, as on "My Heart, My Life," this reverence holds the remixers back; it's ironic that the set's freakiest mix might be its most spiritually faithful. With "Taa Deem," the Asian Dub Foundation (who will probably join Cornershop and Talvin Singh on the crossover front lines shortly) unleash a cyber-punk qawwali dancehall assault that calls down all the sonic ecstasy Khan devoted his life to channeling. The master might not have dug it, but he surely would have understood.