Something about Sam

Jan 17, 2001 at 12:00 am

The man behind the State of Bengal curtain — London DJ-producer-scenemaker Sam Zaman — is in touch with the divine. The proof is on wax in the form of Visual Audio. He’s not trading in trite, ascending arpeggios of sampladelia and 808 cliché. Zaman, rather, has created in these 11 tracks a wild combination of headtrip, ass-friendly groove and ritual.

He begins, appropriately enough, with “Flight 1C 408” from Calcutta. The metaphor may be obvious, but the Zaman’s good sense in having his flight leave and return to earth several times during the album is a potent reminder that you have to start somewhere if you wanna get transcendent. Zaman grounds his music in cool bass lines, spiraling sax samples, the most soaring vocals this side of bhangra (or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Björk, both of whom Zaman has worked with), flute loops, tablas, sitars and impeccably placed, spaced and tweaked skittish, syncopated drum ’n’ bass beat flourishes. Phew! Trip around London’s East Asian dance music underground, anyone?

The description sounds busy. But for a guy with an obvious penchant for kitchen-sink groove-crafting, Zaman remains true to a spacious economy of sounds, never letting his point (or at least the cool beats, samples or gorgeous vocals) get lost in the muddle.

Like the sprawling English city from which Zaman draws his obvious pan-cultural inspiration, there are more stories tucked away in the alleys of this record than 66 minutes can contain. Hit repeat and take off.

Chris Handyside writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail [email protected].