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SUSHEELA RAMAN - MUSIC FOR CROCODILES - EMI MUSIC
Record Rating: ***

Susheela Raman - Music For Crocodiles - EMI Music Trained to sing classical Indian music from childhood, the Londoner by birth began experimenting with the vocal style of American blues in adolescence, finding in her early 20’s a richly exotic sound. There's a special luminosity about Susheela Raman's début Salt Rain that's hard to locate in any one aspect. Perhaps it was the way that the young singer-writer wove traditional tunes and mantras from southern India, or the way she kept her melodies in form and balance on the world music scale.

Whatever it was, she won the BBC World music award for best newcomer, a Mercury Music Prize nomination fell effortlessly into her lap and her music became a big hit across Europe. While the follow up Love Trap failed to extend her reputation, her third effort Music For Crocodiles is a confident bid for the kind of mainstream crossover action her debut promised. As modern electronica flickers amid age-old traditional Indian instruments with unexpected results, it becomes clear that Raman continues to build on her tried-and-true formula.

Born in Britain to South Indian parents, her Tamil birthright did not preclude an attraction to Western pop and she explores this duality once again throughout the album. The thirteen tracks are mediocre at best, and not what one would expect from a promising artist as Raman. Cuts like Light Years and Meanwhile are led by Raman's guitarist-and-producer husband Sam Mills, and are the first of many sinuous violin and veena interweaving. Like the new John Lennon remix album, it’s not a good idea at all. And it does go further. Halfway through, you notice that the singing has switched to Raman's parental language, Tamil, the vowels attenuated in quasi-traditional fashion, and not in tune with the rest of the album. At that point she loses sight of those all-important melodic hooks that made her music so listenable a few years ago.

Still she does try making a last attempt to salvage her reputation on L'Ame Volatile, before the finale Leela brings the album to a close. The Asian-chordal dissonance and her deep voice should have made this an interesting listening experience, but it fails miserably. World music purists will be disheartened at the ordeal.

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