Rimi - The Unveiling/Crossing Over
House, Synthpop I’m still trying to get my head around new Indian artist Rimi. Some of the songs on her new dual release, The Unveiling and Crossing Over are borderline cool, well-produced and help her to accomplish her goal in an interesting way. What is this goal? To marry traditional Indian (Bengali) music with modern Western styles. This has been attempted before with varying degrees of success. Ravi Shankar, of course, is the most famous example of an Indian artist who achieved success in the West, but that was almost all traditional sitar music. M.I.A. who, it should be stated, is from England and born of Sri Lankan parents, is a better example of an artist who has been able to do what Rimi is trying to do, but her emphasis is more on western style with bits of eastern influence, not the other way around. Rimi is trying to do something a little different in merging equal parts western music and Indian. Not just any Indian music, either; it’s Bollywood.
Bollywood is one of the spots wherein I’m confused with Rimi’s music, and the other is the fact that she grew up in the U.S. On first listen, and maybe this is western snobbery at its finest, but many of the songs on both albums sound outdated and produced by older means. I excused that because I hear that type of production in Bollywood music quite often and I think it’s just the style they like in India. If Rimi grew up in the U.S., however, and has access to more western production techniques, I would think she’d use them just because to my ear, some of the production sounds a little hokey. If you’re trying to convert westerners, this really isn’t the route to go. It’s just all a bit confusing as Rimi fuses 80s synthed-out lounge jazz, hip hop, trip hop, house music, conga – man you name it, it’s in there - with Bollywood and Bengali-style melodies. I guess I’m just not sure of her angle.
If you’re still reading and not totally cross eyed, let’s go over the good songs on this double album release, because there are a few. What lured me in was the lead track on Crossing Over, called “Nesha Nesha.” There’s some good jazz bass work here and the traditional vocal elements fuse nicely within a sort of bluesy, trip hop structure. In “Nesha Nesha” Rimi even raps and she’s not half bad. Crossing Over is bookended by its best two tracks, as closing track “Shonay” is the other highlight. It starts off with kind of outdated, misallocated funk, but Rimi makes it work with vocals which move between Indian traditional and western quite seamlessly, and the addition of a western guitar helps to bring it all together.
The Unveiling has a few more well-done tracks on it than Crossing Over, starting with the opener “Surmayee.” Again using western guitar and beat structure to carry Rimi’s traditional vocals really works here. “Mat Ja,” while very Bollywood, has a sort of deep house beat to it which many westerners will like, and “Maahiya,” I think, is Rimi’s answer to Brittney Spears; also with a house beat, this song is very pop-driven and even sees Rimi in a sexy, western-style video.
The Unveiling closes with a “Habibi,” a very Bollywood movie song, and also probably the best song on the whole double EP. Mostly made of traditional Indian elements like the Bengali-timbred vocals and tabla drums which are turned into a fun, danceable beat, this song has a great westernized feel to a traditional Indian-style song which is, ultimately, what Rimi is going for. There is also a remixed version of “Habibi” after the original on The Unveiling, but even though it’s meant to be a more modern dancey version of the first mix, it somehow ends up sounding more Bollywood than the traditional version.
It really isn’t worth going over the songs on the two albums that aren’t particularly great. Overall the album’s production game needs to be stepped up into the 21st century a bit to be taken seriously in the west, and I think Rimi needs to be more clear about the direction in which she wants to take her project. Her intent seems strong, but as she herself admits, it’s an extremely difficult endeavour to try to marry these two musical traditions in any cohesive way. If she’s trying to bring western music into India, I think she’s done a fine job and Indian audiences will like The Unveling and Crossing Over, but for western sensibilities some kinks can be ironed out. Five decent indie/electo-infused songs out of 12 isn’t a bad start, especially with the difficulty of the project. In the meantime, we can wish Rimi luck and cherry-pick our favourites out of these two EPs through the magic of internet streaming. Enjoy!




3
Brutal Resonance

Rimi - The Unveiling/Crossing Over

6.5
"Alright"
Released off label 2015
I’m still trying to get my head around new Indian artist Rimi. Some of the songs on her new dual release, The Unveiling and Crossing Over are borderline cool, well-produced and help her to accomplish her goal in an interesting way. What is this goal? To marry traditional Indian (Bengali) music with modern Western styles. This has been attempted before with varying degrees of success. Ravi Shankar, of course, is the most famous example of an Indian artist who achieved success in the West, but that was almost all traditional sitar music. M.I.A. who, it should be stated, is from England and born of Sri Lankan parents, is a better example of an artist who has been able to do what Rimi is trying to do, but her emphasis is more on western style with bits of eastern influence, not the other way around. Rimi is trying to do something a little different in merging equal parts western music and Indian. Not just any Indian music, either; it’s Bollywood.
Bollywood is one of the spots wherein I’m confused with Rimi’s music, and the other is the fact that she grew up in the U.S. On first listen, and maybe this is western snobbery at its finest, but many of the songs on both albums sound outdated and produced by older means. I excused that because I hear that type of production in Bollywood music quite often and I think it’s just the style they like in India. If Rimi grew up in the U.S., however, and has access to more western production techniques, I would think she’d use them just because to my ear, some of the production sounds a little hokey. If you’re trying to convert westerners, this really isn’t the route to go. It’s just all a bit confusing as Rimi fuses 80s synthed-out lounge jazz, hip hop, trip hop, house music, conga – man you name it, it’s in there - with Bollywood and Bengali-style melodies. I guess I’m just not sure of her angle.
If you’re still reading and not totally cross eyed, let’s go over the good songs on this double album release, because there are a few. What lured me in was the lead track on Crossing Over, called “Nesha Nesha.” There’s some good jazz bass work here and the traditional vocal elements fuse nicely within a sort of bluesy, trip hop structure. In “Nesha Nesha” Rimi even raps and she’s not half bad. Crossing Over is bookended by its best two tracks, as closing track “Shonay” is the other highlight. It starts off with kind of outdated, misallocated funk, but Rimi makes it work with vocals which move between Indian traditional and western quite seamlessly, and the addition of a western guitar helps to bring it all together.
The Unveiling has a few more well-done tracks on it than Crossing Over, starting with the opener “Surmayee.” Again using western guitar and beat structure to carry Rimi’s traditional vocals really works here. “Mat Ja,” while very Bollywood, has a sort of deep house beat to it which many westerners will like, and “Maahiya,” I think, is Rimi’s answer to Brittney Spears; also with a house beat, this song is very pop-driven and even sees Rimi in a sexy, western-style video.
The Unveiling closes with a “Habibi,” a very Bollywood movie song, and also probably the best song on the whole double EP. Mostly made of traditional Indian elements like the Bengali-timbred vocals and tabla drums which are turned into a fun, danceable beat, this song has a great westernized feel to a traditional Indian-style song which is, ultimately, what Rimi is going for. There is also a remixed version of “Habibi” after the original on The Unveiling, but even though it’s meant to be a more modern dancey version of the first mix, it somehow ends up sounding more Bollywood than the traditional version.
It really isn’t worth going over the songs on the two albums that aren’t particularly great. Overall the album’s production game needs to be stepped up into the 21st century a bit to be taken seriously in the west, and I think Rimi needs to be more clear about the direction in which she wants to take her project. Her intent seems strong, but as she herself admits, it’s an extremely difficult endeavour to try to marry these two musical traditions in any cohesive way. If she’s trying to bring western music into India, I think she’s done a fine job and Indian audiences will like The Unveling and Crossing Over, but for western sensibilities some kinks can be ironed out. Five decent indie/electo-infused songs out of 12 isn’t a bad start, especially with the difficulty of the project. In the meantime, we can wish Rimi luck and cherry-pick our favourites out of these two EPs through the magic of internet streaming. Enjoy!




Jul 28 2015

Off label

Official release released by the artist themselves without the backing of a label.

Layla Marino

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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