Album Review: Garden of Idle Hands by Swimming in Bengal

OWhen I started writing reviews six years ago it took me some time to feel like I was anywhere near caught up on releases that I wanted to cover. While I still have the feeling I’m constantly having to run to keep still as regards ace releases (and how good is that by the way?); there is still the odd moment when I have something recommended to me which I totally missed at the time.

With this album from Swimming in Bengal, however, it feels like there is a nice progression going on here. It was recorded in 2015 in Sacramento, California… the vinyl was released on Baggage Claim Records in 2017… and here we are in 2019 and I’m finally writing about it.

However, with this record, it is one thing deciding to write about it; but quite another actually doing so. That’s because there is so much going on here that I hardly know where to start.

I guess the first thing to say that don’t even bother trying to pin this down genre-wise. That’s because one minute you’re grooving to some jazz rhythms, and the next you’re losing your mind to some sitar ragas.

What is more amazing is that this music was recorded live onto a cassette, and is free of any overdubs. This gives the music an earthiness and immediacy as its probably the common thread; that and just how damn good it.

So in the absence of telling you who it sounds like let’s try to evoke the atmosphere of the record. Well it is kind of like entering a vibrant sonic market place. At first if might feel like there is a cacophony of sound which does not really have any order to it. Then slowly you begin to get it… the sound is the market… it is the sum total of what is going on in that space… the transactions, the goods, the people milling around all add to the rich sonic tapestry that makes up the vibrant sound. This reflects the freedom and spontaneity with which this album is played, and you the listener are so engrossed by it that you forget to think about where the individual parts come from… who cares when the whole is this good.

This then is an eclectic album that is brash in the way that it sets out its stall. It is multi-faceted and is, you feel, on the edge of fragmenting into its component musical styles. The fact that it never does is testament to the musicians playing on it. I am so glad that I have finally come across it because I would not have wanted it to exist without my knowing about it.



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