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Like the sky I’ve been too quiet Antonio Poscic , March 13th, 2024 09:46

A combination of English and Tamil, ambient and propulsive, Carnatic song and Appalachian folk, make for a deeply sentimental yet inventive record, finds Antonio Poscic

Ganavya’s mesmerising delivery on ‘Increase Awareness’ from Kofi Flexxx’s 2023 jazz-cum-hiphop statement Flowers In The Dark found itself pressed between the hard, urgent edges of billy woods, E L U C I D, and Anthony Joseph’s verses on one end and the disorienting, earthy avant vocalisations of Siyabonga Mthembu on the other. Listening to the cut was like being thrust right into the middle of a storm, left to experience the beatific calm and beauty of its eye, only for the sky to come crashing down on you. The sophomore full-length by the New York born, Tamil Nadu raised, and California based singer appears like an expansion of that moment, a further exploration of a deceptive sort of bliss underscored by a pervasive sense of timeless melancholy.

Ganavya’s singing style, rooted in Carnatic tradition, is so magnetic that Like the sky I’ve been too quiet could have easily featured nothing but her voice. The undulating inflection flows between Tamil and English, leaving behind an intricate narrative in which melody, rhythm, and words become key characters of the story. Returning the favour for her guest spot on Flowers In The Dark, Kofi Flexxx/Shabaka Hutchings joins Ganavya alongside several other musicians – including producers Floating Points and Leafcutter John and bassist Tom Herbert – to provide a lush scenery for these confessional miniatures.

Their touches are welcome even as they drift towards the ambiguity of ambient, Fourth World adjacent expressions, assembling flute licks, bubbling effects, and the occasional punctuating drum pattern into textures that gently caress vocal lines. They instil a foreboding mystery in the most rapturous moments and provide spots of light in the darkest passages, such as on the opening ‘not in an anthropological mood’. The instrumentation here is even more reserved and sparse than elsewhere on the record as Ganavya’s voice washes over desolate electronic drones and flute phrases that sound like the wind whistling through chimes in an abandoned city. It’s a haunting, otherworldly piece that drips with atmosphere and drama.

In contrast, ‘first notebook of songs’ appears nigh euphoric. Permeated by sustained flute tones and effervescent synth arpeggios, the vocalisations and sung lyrics are brighter and soar higher here, even as a passing cloud of sorrowful nostalgia threatens to burden their rise. Over the next eleven songs, Like the sky I’ve been too quiet continues balancing darkness and light, weaving together intimate stories with threads of cosmic spirituality. The bucolic harp accents of ‘forgive me my’ sharpen into the propulsive ‘seal’, while the unsettling, deep reverberations of plucked bass strings on ‘call it luck if you want to’ become a commanding hymn to the moon goddess Inanna on ‘call her by her name, enheduanna’.

And when ‘growing sense of wonder’ and ‘I walk again, eyes towards the Sky’ close the album with echoes of lo-fi ambient and harmonised, banjo led passages reminiscent of Appalachian folk, they provide an idiosyncratic, apt ending to a deeply sentimental yet inventive record.