Review Summary: Robert Miles and Trilok Gurtu create quite a few amazing songs, but the album is brought down by too many underdeveloped ideas and filler.
Robert Miles and Trilok Gurtu are like one of those Marvel/DC comics where two random superheroes team up to fight an enormous foe that needs two superheroes to conquer. Batman meets Superman. Spiderman meets Captain America. As the album cover symbolizes, the two touch hands and it creates a musical entity unknown to the world thus far. What are they fighting? Probably nothing, but it’s still a damn cool combination.
If anyone is wondering who I’m babbling on about and why I’m calling them superheroes, you’re either American . Robert Miles and Trilok Gurtu find most of their fame in Europe. Miles created one of the biggest dance songs of the 90s entitled “Children”, which peaked at #1 on the charts in over 12 countries including France, Switzerland, Germany, and even the US dance charts for a week. In France, it was number 1 for a remarkable 11 weeks. Since his breakthrough single, Miles slowly pushed his way out of the mainstream and creating stranger, more ambient music. Miles and Gurtu met on his last solo album, Organik
, where Gurtu played percussion on three of the tracks. Gurtu has a large, diverse background, recognized as one of the best jazz drummers and world percussionists in the world. Drum Magazine called him Best Overall Percussionist in 1999. His drum set style is almost like a religious ceremony, kneeling instead of playing with a stool and submersing his cymbals in water to give them a shimmer effect. Coming off the momentum of Organik
, which critics saw as a triumphant return for Miles, the two created this collaboration album.
Considering the two’s pedigree, previous experience, and musical integrity, great things were sure to ensue following the recording of this album. “Golden Rust” and “Soul Driven” both signify that the two have some chemistry. They lie in a jazzy, groove-based vein quite similar to The Cinematic Orchestra and Jaga Jazzist on The Stix
. Gurtu plays set on these songs as Miles finds his place on his trusty keyboards. Among the two, Gurtu stands out far more, laying down an incredible groove while constantly changing his style. Still, bassist Paul Falloon stands out of the entire ensemble, playing the main melodic themes in “Golden Rust” and playing a fantastic groove style in “Soul Driven” both with extreme finesse and utilizing a variety of different techniques. This style of music obviously comes most natural to Gurtu and Miles, as it is what Miles aspired to in that era of his career and it fits Gurtu’s drumming style perfectly. Naturally, this style makes the consistently best songs on the album, but simply an album that came natural to the two was not enough. They needed to challenge themselves.
Unfortunately, they challenged themselves too often, having Miles return to his ambient style for nearly half the album. Seven of its thirteen tracks fall under two and a half minutes, and while a few of them flow into each other to make a longer, more complete work, many of the songs are simply boring. “Tragedy : Comedy: feels like a bizarre Omar Rodriguez-Lopez song with a strange guitar melody taking premise in the 20 seconds where the song has any form of melody. It feels like a blueprint for something that could be really cool, as do most of these songs, but they end all too soon without going anywhere. “Wearing Masks” grows as a keyboard-led song, but just as it might break into a huge climax, it stops, where “Xenon” feels like a Joe Zawinul composition that sweetly closes the album. “Languages of Conscious Thought” and “Without a Doubt” are really the only two short tracks that work. They both feature Trilok on his world percussion set, where he might be more adroit than his jazz set. Overall, the songs have a free jazz feel, even when Gurtu plays. “Without a Doubt” goes a bit too obscure, with textural droning dominating the second half of the song, but of the middle of the album, the last two tracks stand out.
Luckily for Miles and Gurtu, the album redeems itself with "Inductive", which is a dance track if the two ever created one. Beginning with dreamy keyboards and a catchy bass motif, a quiet electronic beat comes in and grows to a huge breakbeat-styled frenzy. It feels like an electronic Gurtu playing. Melodically, it draws from the jazzy style of the album’s opening, but it feels entirely different due to the electronic drums driving the music. Amazingly, Gurtu imitates this drum style on his set in the next song, “The Big Picture.” It is nothing short of incredible - frenetic and driving. Overall, Gurtu stands out far beyond Miles, but it is not like other collaborations where there is a battle of egos. Gurtu simply has a more outstanding role as drummer. Miles does most of the work behind the scenes - the ambient noises, the production, the ambiance in the keyboards, the string arrangements, and much more. If the entire album lived up to the quality of its standouts, Miles_Gurtu
might be one of the most amazing albums in the genre.