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U.K.’s Uniting Of Opposites Bring Trippy Jazz Fusion On ‘Ancient Lights’

Improvisation and serendipity go hand in hand as the trio crosses sitar-led trip-hop, jazz and psychedelic rock

Anurag Tagat May 18, 2018

Uniting of Opposites - Clem Alford, Tim Liken and Ben Hazleton (from left). Photo: Kid Genius Creative

A dance music producer, a sitarist and a jazz bassist all found common ground in Indian classical music. DJ Tim Deluxe aka Tim Liken has been a dancefloor favorite since 1995, sitar player Clem Alford trekked to India to learn under Pandit Sachindra Nath Saha back in 1968 at the Midnapore Music College and their common link was bassist Ben Hazleton.

The jazz bassist, who performs regularly with acts such as the Tony Kofi Quartet, introduced Liken and Alford to create Uniting Of Opposites, where Indian classical became their muse. Hazleton says there are aspects of classical that can apply to any sound. He adds as an example, “A funk groove could be perceived in teentaal if it’s embedded on a subconscious level. Similarly the fineness or individuality of tuning will shape any melody.”

Their mind-warping debut album Ancient Lights, which releases on May 18th via Brighton record label Tru Thoughts, was born out of a gathering in a London studio. Alford interprets raagas sublimely, while Liken adds layers and electronic effects over Hazleton’s rubbery basslines which almost sound like they’d find a home in any Indian classical performance. They worked with drummer Eddie Hick, clarinet player Idris Rahman, tabla player Manjeet Singh Rasiya and the voice of Marcina Arnold on the liberating title track.

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Listen to “Ancient Lights”

Right from the sound to the artwork, Ancient Lights comes across as jazz fusion (“Mints,” “Dr. Roach”) record at times, electronic fusion (“Vortex Number 9”) at other times, Sixties psychedelic (“Corridor Moves”) and fully steeped in melancholic, intense Indian classical (“The Uniting Of Opposites”). Featuring artwork by Japanese artist Tokio Ayoama, Ancient Lights does give that initial impression of the typically outsider look at India ”“ cattle included. But Liken, who commissioned the artwork on behalf of the band, says he sent references of images that inspired song titles. “I had found an image of the Midnapore train station sign and I included the image as Clem has this strong connection to Midnapore. It’s funny, because I had sent Tokio quite a lot of images, but it was Tokio who decided to use the sign and place it on the piano.”

Ask Alford about India and certainly, he’s visited a few times over after his tutelage in the Sixties. He, along Liken and Hazleton are more than eager to bring the trio to India to perform. “I was last there about five years ago and would love to go there to perform. India has a great musical heritage and tradition. We’d love to come to India and perform. Sending the signal!”

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Listen to “Vortex Number 9” below. Get the album here.