Label: WEA Format: CD,LP
More Dub-based at heart than anything else, Bengali Bantam Youth Experience shows a musical development from Black Star Liner‘s début Yemen Cutta Connection which results in a more streamlined experience, with crisp production letting the bass reverberate around and under delicate keyboard tones, Bollywood strings and all manner of Eastern percussion. There’s some upbeat skanking beats on tracks like “Low BMW” and the laid-back single “Superfly And Bindi” which exhibit and infectious groove and sardonic vocals which take things well beyond the Asian Cool into the realms of Asian Sarkey. Yep, and there’s a vocoder about alongside the de rigueur samples from the On-U Sound back catalogue too, plus fuzz guitars and sitar twangs as is only to be expected, while there are even some sub-Hank Marvin moments on the chugging “Dark Shadow”.
So maybe the tablas are sometimes used under the influence more of Coldcut than Zakir Hussein, and placed mostly as loops rather than taking on the complexity possible from a master. But there’s still plenty of rhythmic complexity going on, just not restricted to the Eastern mode. If anything, there’s still more of the West Indies or West Yorkshire sound system in the rhythms and vocals, though everything comes together from diverse sources in the relaxed Dub and Filmi tracks “Khatoon,” “Pink Rupee” or “Inder Automatic” – the latter’s vocal track even fails to irritate despite it’s similarity to the singers roped in or sampled for years of Goa Trance records. However, the marvellously hummed samples of the equally well-titled “Ethnic Suicide of the Volga Boatmen,” whose camel-riding feel is accentuated by the crashing-wave cymbals and Mellotron-style cinematic strings stands out as the record’s highlight for its enlivening chant.
An album made by dopeheads who’ve cut down on the weed intake but kept up the mindset of nodding beats and keenly-felt production, Bengali Bantam Youth Experience is a pan-cultural experience which shouldn’t really need remarking on in those terms. Chilled and groovy, Black Star Liner achieve here the far more important goal of making a multi-layered sound, finely balanced between the soporific and the psychedelic, which continues the fruitful combination of Dub and Tabla pioneered by the likes of The Suns Of Arqa in at just over forty minutes – no mean feat in these days of the double CD.