Two years after the release of his acclaimed Charlie Parker project Bird Calls (ACT), saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa returns with his longstanding Indo-Pak Coalition for Agrima, a vinyl and download-only release that is a dazzling hybrid of Indian music and furious jazz-rock.
Besides Mahanthappa the group consists of guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer/tablaist Dan Weiss, with the occasional bit of electronic enhancement floating in the background. Overall, the music is very tight and forceful. "Snap" best displays its general setup: Mahanthappa's alto snakes around wildly in the lead, as Abbasi accompanies him with deep, twangy low-register chords like Gabor Szabo; and Weiss percolates behind on tabla or trap drums. However, every other track adds different details to the template.
"Can-Did" is taken at a slower tempo with Abbasi's guitar getting an opportunity to really resonate. "Showcase" settles into a swaggering rock groove, with Mahanthappa playing slippery soul lines as Abbasi picks flinty rhythm chords, a sound that slowly slips into abstraction as glassy synthesizers appear in the background and Weiss switches from tabla to crashing drums. Synthesizers actually begin the title track playing a dizzying roller coaster melody with drum accompaniment. Then the rest of the trio joins in, following the synth lines before going unexpectedly into an Irish reel, with Mahanthappa dancing a jig in the foreground and Abbasi slamming wide power chords.
"Revati" starts with ghostly electronic sounds surrounding Abbasi's twisted guitar manipulations, before Mahanthappa bears in with a slow, serpentine melody that gets faster, as Abbasi comes down with heavy rock rhythm guitar. "Rasikapriya" and "Take-Turns" both begin with loops or cloudy abstractions, and go on to alto and guitar doing frantic solo tears that evoke vintage Mahavishnu Orchestra. The soul in Mahanthappa's tone is clear amidst all his rapid-fire buzzing, while Abbasi's dizzying runs are pure psychedelic rock. This release is enjoyable in itself but these guys sound like they had so much fun just creating this in a recording studio; how powerful they must sound in concert.