Ambient music works best when it creates a mood and becomes the perfect backdrop to one’s surroundings. This allows for the music to serve, depending on the listener’s mood, as either a perfect compliment to whatever else is going on in the foreground or to offer an avenue into intense introspection directed by the music. This Is Our Raga, the latest cassette from Hamilton, ON’s No Shoes & One Sock, manages to pull this dual feat off perfectly.
Primarily the project of Jamie Ryan Downey, but also including Drew and Reg (last names unknown), the project is described as “Indian primitive,” with the raga title reference also indicating as much. India Currents magazine states that “a raga is a scale which is played one way going up (arohi) and another way going down (avarohi). There are also two heavily emphasized notes, usually a fourth apart called the vadi and samvadi (usually translated as the ‘king’ and ‘prime minister notes.’” As with traditional Indian ragas, No Shoes & One Sock’s piece mostly consists of the same scale, but played in interestingly evolving ways. The upfront, but not in your face, presence of the sitar also adds to the classical Indian vibe.
What sets This Is Our Raga apart from other generic cross-blends of Eastern and ambient, however, is the inherent eeriness present throughout the piece’s duration. From the omnipresent howling heard in the background throughout to the 1950s scifi film-like noises that emerge at unpredictable moments, there is a subtle darkness to this raga that takes it from being a simple ode to classical Indian music to a truly unique experience.
With this simple, but perfect blending of traditional Indian raga and ambient/drone techniques (which of course trace their origins back to Indian music) This is Our Raga is truly one of those refreshing pieces of music that can be played on an endless loop and listened to all day with every listen yielding a different experience.
Review by KiRee Robinson