Week in Pop: Promise Keeper, Saudade Sisters, Younger Lovers

Sjimon Gompers

The Younger Lovers win the week with a brand new album (from left), Rich Guttierrez, Brontez Purnell & Ezra Rabin; photographed by Fabian Echevarria.

Arranged Marriage NP

From left, Arranged Marriage NP's Mustafa Bhagat & Jerry Adler live at BSP Kingston; press photo courtesy of the artists.

From left, Arranged Marriage NP’s Mustafa Bhagat & Jerry Adler live at BSP Kingston; press photo courtesy of the artists.

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From your all things independent resource over at Team Love Records; we are proud to present an instrumental odyssey from New Paltz duo Arranged Marriage NP. The combined talents of Adler (known for his work in Wave Sleep Wave, The Blam, Flugente & more) with sitar star Mustafa Bhagat (of Indian trad pop duo Biryani Boys) combine a dialogue of sound that will transfix all minds & spirits who hear these meditative wonders. Available on limited edition vinyl April 15 from the gracious folks at Team Love, a whole world of ambient delights is about to open up before your very senses.

On Arranged Marriage NP’s self-titled adventure starts of with “Hemant” that begins the duo’s session like witnessing a sacred event. A series of what Adler refers to as “sonic rāgas”, every song hovers around (and often above) the ten minute mark to take you on some mind opening & spirit summoning journeys. “Bhimpalasi” (referring to a Hindustani form of classical rāga) shows itself by letting the sitar strokes become engulfed in the vague & muffled rumblings of what sounds like field recordings of insects & other wildlife waking up in the nocturne moon light. The next level is “Hamsadhwani” (translating to “sound of swans”, a rāga in Carnatic classical Indian music), that brings about the sensation that can only be attributed to an exquisite feathered foul floating about stylishly on a lake of tranquility. “Malkauns” brings all the rāgas full circle where we experience both the modern & ancient forms all in one consciousness.

How did Arranged Marriage NP come together between the two of you?

Jerry: One night I was at a Biryani Boys show, Mustafa’s classical Indian raga duo, and I just started thinking about how nice those pieces would sound with what I do! Isn’t that what everyone thinks when they’re at someone else’s show? Seriously though, it struck me that adding my sonic palette to the classical Indian raga structure could be really interesting.

Mustafa: I actually think our first time was a bit awkward and tentative. Like weren’t sure if we were just fooling around or whether we were gonna go all the way. Ya know? But then it got better.

Jerry: Like we said, it’s an arranged marriage.

In what ways do influences from Mustafa’s Biryani Boys & Adler’s Wave Sleep Wave, The Blam, Flugente, etc contribute to these instrumental dialogues?

Mustafa: The Biryani Boys mostly performs a classical Indian repertoire, so I draw heavily on the classical training when I play with Jerry. My focus is to unfold the melody of the raga as purely as possible. One of my guru’s once said that the tanpura, the drone instrument in classical Indian music, is like the ocean that the melody instrument (sitar, vocal, sarod, etc.) can swim through. To me what Jerry is doing is like a technicolor extension of that idea and I think of that analogy often when we perform.

Jerry: Basically, we have removed the percussive element and substituted an atmosphere. But the mission is the same. Each raga has a set of rules about the the notes that are used and the mood of the piece, and from there it’s an improvised composition. So we have taken the more literal side of what Mustafa has been pursuing and fused it with the more abstract side of my musical vocabulary. But certainly, nothing I’ve done before is remotely like this.

Rhapsody in blue with Jerry Adler; press photo courtesy of the artists.

Rhapsody in blue with Jerry Adler; press photo courtesy of the artists.

Describe further the communicative synergy that you two share.

Jerry: Being good friends really helps. I find Mustafa very easy to relate to as a person and when we play together it’s a further expression of that. We had known each other for a couple years before ever playing a note of music and that’s a nice foundation for any artistic endeavor. Speaking strictly musically, it just works, for us anyway. The two languages fit and we like to talk.

Mustafa: I think one interesting thing about our music is that it is this conversation between a more traditional, unaffected approach on sitar, and a more layered, effects and processed-driven approach on the guitar. The sounds are so disparate when looked at individually, yet together are somehow singular and cohesive. I am pretty sure Jerry and I are both trying to get to the same place, which is to say, somewhere beautiful and interesting. The trick, and the task, is to stay unconsciously on course as long as possible within each tune. As a piece unfolds, we don’t know exactly where we are going, but we know when we’ve arrived.

What does a proper, or regular Arranged Marriage NP session look & sound like?

Jerry: We play sitting down, facing each other. Often at shows we like to perform on the floor rather than the stage. The more intimate the setting, mood-wise, the better. As far as sound, it depends on the venue. It can be coming through a house PA in a larger space that doesn’t have volume restrictions or it can be played in a living room. The sounds I make have nothing to do with the volume at which they’re played, so it’s easily tailored for wherever we are.

Mustafa: It’s kind of all about having a captive audience that, once they have committed, has no choice but to listen.

Other artists that you two are really into at this moment?

Mustafa: I am always listening to a good variety of Indian classical music. Right now it’s vocal thumri by greats like Bhimsen Joshi and Shubha Mugdal. I am also seriously going down an early hip-hop rabbit hole, rediscovering the likes of Afrika Bombaataa and KRS-One.

Jerry: We’re both pretty into the 70s and 80s High Life stuff from Ghana and Nigeria. For me, there’s been a lot of Nick Lowe and Thelonious Monk this week. Separately, of course. I don’t believe the two gentlemen worked together.

Further insights on upcoming releases & other projects of interest?

Jerry: We absolutely want to go further down this road and will record more as soon as the urge strikes. As far as other projects, I’m incredibly excited to be working on a record with my friend, the Israeli musician Shahar Even-Tzur. We had, and now have again, a band together called The 527S.

Mustafa: We are already thinking about the next one for sure, it would be great to collaborate with other musicians and bring in more sounds and colors. We’ve also thought it would be cool to see what a remix of this record would sound like. The other project I have going on right now is with my friend David Freeman—also of The Biryani Boys. We just got out of the studio and recorded a handful of tunes with some really great musicians, so I am excited to see how that takes shape.

Arranged Marriage NP’s self-titled will be available April 15 from Team Love Records.

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