Review Summary: What world fusion music should sound like, where neither world or electronics dominate but work in unison.
Seeing the tag world fusion, and without hearing a single note from Max Karandish’s or Mah-Ze-Tar as he goes by in music circles, self-titled debut album, somebody might dismiss it as yet another gimmick or an attempt to cash in on a trend. Frankly, there is an abundance of those, usually, either drowning the authentic world music elements in overbearing electronics and beats or turning them into bland aural wallpaper that is supposed to be ‘relaxing’.
But who you do let Mah-Ze-Tar present his music you realize that he belongs into that selected group of musicians, like India’s Ananda Shankar that do manage to combine the two ‘improbables’ and make them sound cohesive, inventive and extremely listenable. And although Karandish bases the nine compositions here on nine different Indian raga’s and infuses them with electronics and beats, he doesn’t stop there - he brings in also the elements of other Eastern music like Persian and Turkish.
Certainly, that is no problem for him, as he demonstrates that he is not only very well versed with sitar, but also oud, saz and some even less known instruments in the West like dilruba and bansuri. Still, Karandish, who also demonstrates that he is an excellent vocalist, is well steeped in Western musical forms, be it modern electronics, jazz or even opera. Because if he wasn’t his fusion project would have been immediately doomed for disaster.
What’s more, for projects like these you need to have an extra sense of when each of the opposing elements needs to take the lead role, when these elements have to be balanced and when you need to show your instrumental expertise. Karandish has that sense, and that is why he was able to strike this essential balance throughout the album, even making “Liquid Lotus” a track that could end up on a club circuit or on one of those hugely popular Buddha Bar compilations. Otherwise, the extended tracks here like “Cosmic Union”, “Keshi” or “Yaman” would certainly fall apart in disarray, but instead, they make Mah-Ze-Tar shine and turn it into one of the better and more intriguing world fusion albums around.