Album reviews

Shakti: ‘This Moment’

Shakti – This Moment
(Abstract Logix. Album review by Phil Johnson)

The vinyl version of world-fusion supergroup Shakti’s first studio album for, wait for it, forty-six years is something to behold. There’s an initial edition limited to three thousand numbered copies pressed onto two 180 gram purple platters housed in a luxury-trade gatefold sleeve whose gold lettering and peacock-tail highlights are set against a purple background of flowers and birds amid a paradisal landscape.

Produced by John McLaughlin, and co-produced by percussionist Selvaganesh Vinayakaram, the eight tracks were recorded between the five group members’ home studios in Monaco, India and the United States, with the musicians adding their contributions separately (using an innovative app called Audiomovers) before the final product was mixed in London by engineer George Murphy at Eastcote Studios.

Perhaps surprisingly, the peripatetic method – partly a consequence of Covid restrictions on travel, and partly choice and convenience – works extremely well, with a bright immediacy to the ensemble sound, and a dazzlingly accomplished sense of interplay between the virtuosi’s parts, despite them effectively playing to a technologically-enhanced click track.

It’s very much a group album, with vocalist Shankar Mahadevan and violist Ganesh Rajagopalan getting as much space as founder members McLaughlin and tabla-master Zakir Hussain. But despite compositions being shared between the members, McLaughlin underpins the sonic architecture throughout, his rhythm playing on electric guitar and ethereal decorative work on guitar synth determining the overall mood of each piece. And his playing, whether providing melodic lines or textural detail, is astonishingly apt, on speed of light single note runs, chunky chords or airy synth-noodles. There is, of course, an awful lot of chattering konokol – the tabla player’s rat-a-tat vocal version of percussive patterning – but that comes with the Shakti territory.

Needless to say, McLaughlin has impressively nimble fingers for anyone, let alone an 81 year old who until recently thought he would never tour again because of disabling arthritis. Now, instead of pipe and slippers retirement, he’s about to begin a coast to coast U.S. tour to celebrate Shakti’s 50th anniversary.

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LINK: Buy This Moment

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