Album Reviews

Mukul – Stray

(Black And White) UK release date: 2 October 2006

What is it about the music business that creates such a wealth of delusional beings? From the safety of wailing into a hairbrush in your bedroom to the looney tunes freakshow that is The X Factor. Our passion for not just failures, but towering messy, public failures seems unstoppable.

Straight out of Bombay comes this musical oddity. A true mashing of styles from sparse hip-hop, to eastern beats, with paranoid confessional vocals set in tripped-hopped cinematic arrangements. This could be the biggest widescreen audio adventure or the biggest fool’s journey of embarrassing pretentiousness.

Like a Tricky as a loverman, Indian DJ Mukul’s delivery of spoken philosophy over a hip hop slowmo breakbeat is a defiant opener that could fall flat on its face with the weight of its own self-importance. With executive producer Howie B overseeing things this promises a heavyweight trip of urban paranoia swathed in classy drapes.

Slurred, narcotic delivery that falls out of the speakers like some confessional or diatribe, like Tricky, even the early The The dawn of the soul rants of Matt Johnson. If only it were that human, its lyrics of “curiosity mocks while pussy weeps” aim for streetlust but come across as bad poetry that jars rather than stirs.

For all its faults the opening salvo of the first two tracks sets some uneasy high waters with the stop-start acoustic loop of Ephemeral and the mantra “adapt and smile” pulling the listener in sounding uncannily like John Cale with a similarly glum but compulsive worldview. You Don’t Know Me builds from this on a bed a strings and sparse beats about the love/lust impulse like a world music kerb-crawler picking up radio stations for cheap thrills.

Unfortunately politics get tackled in its own mawkish way on Malice dealing with Bush’s take on Syria/Iran over narcoleptic beats Mukul intones tired clich�s. Let’s face it he was never a born singer, and to compound what he does have to say has been said before with more intent and imagination than this lukewarm rakeover. From very limited musical upbringing (state owned TV, one channel in black and white) Mukul had to search for any glimmer of musical subversion going.

Happy Birthday calls to mind the fried paranoid headstate of Cabaret Voltaire as it stares red-eyed over alienated bleeps and beats into a bleak old time. Unfortunately Mukul only seems to have one level of delivery which pales after repetition into sad pastiche. What could be insightful comes across as rambling boredom.

Fractured beats, broken melodies limp around prettily underneath the vocal wreaths which nose to the front of the tracks like drunk uncles. Living By The Gramme captures this seemingly improvised feel of lyrical flow that has all the depth of bad greetings card rhymes over fractured blues piano and a dusty beat like some musical blind date. Unfortunately it seems Mukul must think his musings are sexy and deep, but they just come across as limited, with nothing to say. Not even the ever-fickle Sharon Osbourne could save Mukul from taking the next taxi home.

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Mukul – Stray