Al Gromer Khan explores hermetic trance music on his latest release, Lalita, and it’s a swirling, incense-clouded, sensual dive into Indian music. The music here is characteristically smooth and beautifully produced. There’s a practiced sparseness to it in places, with Khan letting minimal elements and the space between moments effectively create a nice emotional weight and a dreamy feel. After the short opening track “Tears at the Paisley” lays out a lounge-infused overtone for the album, the groove slides into “On Golden Boat.” This is where you get that first taste of dreaminess. Sitar opens the piece, followed by a light rhythm on tabla. It all moves slowly but gracefully. Hand claps add some texture, and it proceeds to simple glide by. “Ahira” reverberates gently in your ears, string notes hopping back and forth, which is fantastically brain-soothing. It sighs its way into “All of This and More,” a borderline ambient piece graced with a keyboard melody that also revels in pauses and held notes. These quieter moments—in what is, overall, a pretty quiet album—are my favorites. “Elvis Went to Durgapur” shifts from an ambient drift built on chiming tones to a prayer-like space with gorgeous chants and singing. “The Pilgrim and the Crow” opens as a whispered tableau, then takes on curling sitar lines, claps, and percussion, yet still feels airy and open and personal. The album closes with the appropriately titled, 10-minute “Wanting Nothing.” It’s got a waking-dream quality to it as you listen to elements that have become familiar over the past tracks slip past one last time. Piano underscores it all, again embracing that patiently lovely sparseness and the broad dimensional feel it creates. It’s very calm and cleansing and unhurried. Even single notes take on added importance in this misty place. A perfect close.
Lalita is one of those albums that just gets better with each listen. This culmination of Khan’s studies into Indian music to this point rings deeply with his personal connection to the music. It is spiritual, but that spirituality is administered softly and it insinuates itself into your consciousness rather than forcing its way in. This is a great piece for meditation, and if you start out just taking a close/headphone listen without intending to meditate, you’ll drop into that state before too long. Give in to it, and float your way through this wonderful album.
Available from CD Baby.