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Shaa’ir+Func

Light Tribe
[Three stars]
Blue Frog/Sony BMG

Lalitha Suhasini Jun 10, 2008
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Indian electronica’s lovestruck couple Shaa’ir+Func –  vocalist Monica Dogra who moved out of NY to Mumbai and rock band Pentagram’s guitarist Randolph Correia – have been busy since their debut last year. Apart from cross-country tours, showing up on the NY dance scene as DJ Rekha’s guests and London’s underground clubs alongside Shiva Sound System, the pair also recorded their second album Light Tribe in their living rooms and bedrooms. Considering the validity of these claims the sound quality is quite impressive. And going by their gig schedule, it’s definitely the best time to be Shaa’ir+Func.

Their debut New Day: The Love Album with Dogra’s slam poetry style vocals and stripped down programming by Correia had enough to make you sit up and take notice of the band. And S+F have evolved musically in Light Tribe without losing track of the mad energy that makes them a marketable live act.

Dogra and Correia exploit wailing synths, clap beats and distortion guitar growls to suit the electro dance theme in Light Tribe, which packs in 20 songs – plenty of material to gig with for another year. But you have to do a quick shuffle here to get to the real floor quakers.

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The title track could have ended up as a desi ‘Funky Town’ but the band thankfully doesn’t cheat on their love for disco. Dogra’s vocals keep the track firmly in original territory.

In ‘Together Again’ (the Lavender Night version) Func aka Correia is cooling off beautifully on the strings. But instead of taking the track into the same space as ‘Moonlight’ or ‘Secret’ from their debut, Dogra ODs on the oomph. The result isn’t pretty – the vocals are far from sensuous – if that was the aim. The regular version makes up for all this.

The artists have unwisely left all the fun stuff for much later. Skip to track number 9. ‘Who Says’ is a winner with an infectious dance vibe and Carribean beats. In fact, Correia pulls out a few surprises as the scratch master on the track. We’ve watched this one live and Dogra made sure that everybody in the house was up on their feet and didn’t sit down again.

There are also tracks such as ‘All My Colours’ that may not show up on the turntable but could be part of an electronica Broadway musical. The loops are simple, away from the mad disco crowd and are nothing like the band has attempted in the past. The lyrics are strictly for the light-headed – “Yellow makes me feel like I am mellow/Makes you a silly fellow/Makes people eat marshmallows.” Nobody’s even expecting serious stuff like ‘Her Story’ which is at best a filler, but this sophomore rhyme just doesn’t make the cut.

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It’s the insane, let-it-all-hang-out numbers like ‘Who Says’ and ‘More Bless Than Not [Embrace]’ that do the trick. The second version of ‘Embrace’ with crazy loops that switch on the strobes in your head is just the track that makes for a wired Shaa’ir+Func performance.

While the debut had none of the experimental spirit it was an instant fix. Light Tribe takes longer to get there. But once it hits you there’s no getting off the dance floor.

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