Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti – Trikala (4 stars)

Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti – Trikala

A striking synthesis of cultures three years in the making

After spending three years recording in Scotland and India, Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti have released Trikala, a journey through a kaleidoscopic sound world of east meets west, folk meets flamenco, and pretty much everything in between. With a playing time of nearly two and a half hours, this double album is a remarkable body of work. Each track is either composed or reworked by Thacker himself, and performed by him along with a stellar rotation of musicians from varying traditions. Trikala opens with an original composition for guitar and three South Indian percussion instruments: the mridangam, a tall, double headed drum; the kanjira, a circular frame drum; and the ghatam, a clay pot with a narrow mouth. Named after the conch shell of the Hindu god Vishnu, 'Panchajanya' – aptly described by Thacker in the sleeve notes as a 'face-melter' – is both rhythmically and harmonically complex, with driven, percussive guitar playing that races through jazz and flamenco tinged melodies.

Thacker puts his own stamp on modern Punjabi music in his re-imagining of folk songs 'Chan Kithan Guzari Ayee Raat Ve' and 'Tappe (Tuttey dil da ilaaj nahi)', with Punjabi folk and Sufi singer Afsana Khan's arresting, dusky vocals drawing in the listener.

CD One's final track, 'Nirjanavana' – meaning 'deserted or enchanted forest' in Sanskrit – is a beautifully stilling, almost hypnotic piece. Though written for solo guitar, Thacker uses digital delay to create a multi-layered echo which gives the music a shimmering, fluttering delicacy.

The second CD is an exploration into the centuries-old Bengali Baul tradition. A Baul is typically a Hindu or Muslim mystic, who pours their spirituality into devotional songs. Haunting melismatic passages are sung by either Farida Yesmin or Raju Das Baul, who also plays khomok on the album – a Bangladeshi drum with a plucked string. Thacker's interpretations of works written by revered Bauls over the centuries feature intricately ornamented guitar parts juxtaposed with smooth, flowing vocals. The final two tracks are based on works by Lalon Fakir, and the rich symbolism in his poetry is wonderfully evoked in the music.

Named after the Sanskrit term for past, present and future tenses, Trikala is a remarkable study into an array of musical traditions and the fruits their cross-pollination can yield. It also contains some outstanding performances given by the very best in their respective fields, perhaps most notably from Thacker himself, whose guitar playing on this album is exceptional.

Out now on Slap The Moon Records.