Puja - Dijf Sanders (Album Review)
14 February 2020
Album Rating 4.5 / 5
Favourite Songs Ravana, Parvati, Citipati, Mahakala
Following the success of the critically acclaimed 2018 album Java, Brugge-born musical visionary Dijf Sanders has released new album Puja, a triumph of trance-like rhythms that have a deep intensity and mix together Sanders' multicultural influences.
The Ghent based musician was a one-time member of synth pop bands Teddiedrum and The Violent Husbands, and he regularly collaborates on various projects and productions in Belgium at the same time, recently working with Warhaus, Sylvie Kreusch, Mattias De Craene’s MDC III and Wim Vandekeybus to name a few.
His 2016 album Moonlit Planetarium was a welcoming insight into the unique world of Sanders and resulted in an experimental clash of percussive persuasion, ethnic sounds and western beats. The follow-up album Java, released in 2018, was commissioned by Europalia and saw Sanders travel to Java in search of the sound of the Indonesian island. He gathered an impressive collection of field recordings and samples, took them to his studio and created a record bursting with sultry beats, psychedelic trance and ethio-jazz.
As a multi-instrumentalist and composer, Sanders combines a broad mix of styles including exotica, psychedelia, jazz and electronica, approached with a boundless enthusiasm for various musical blends as he travelled to Nepal to record Puja, once again using his field recordings and impressions to create the deeply enriched sound and embark on another musical adventure of mystic and wonder. He presents his tracks with the titles of Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh deities, as well as important characters from epics such as the Ramayana to display the significance that religion played in the samples he recorded throughout his travels - this is also reflected in the album art.
Sanders released the video to the second single ‘Santoshi Mata’, a track that sprouts through a hypnotic soundscape of sacred monk chants and eclectic vibrations. As the Mother of Satisfaction, 'Santoshi Mata' displays some wonderful guitar phrasing to generate a happy, folky tone throughout with the equally psych-inspired synth sound.
On the making of the video, director Bert Vercruysse said:
“The first time I listened to Dijf's ‘Santoshi Mata’ was coincidentally in the oldest temple in Nepal, Changu Narayan, a stone's throw from Baktapur. At that moment everything actually coincided: Dijf who likes to play (music) with Game Boys, his Nepal adventures and this exciting song named after the goddess of sufficiency. It was obvious that I was going to make a kind of Nepalese Game Girl in a pixelated Nepal.”
This psych-folk sound comes out again in the final track 'Kameswari', but the first single 'Ravana' differs with a phenomenal trance-like rhythmic flow to it. It fuses together Sanders' influences from Nepalese, Tibetan, Chinese and Indian culture to create a broken beat and organic exotica, with the whirring sound of the sample rattling on as the vocals offer a continuing sense of ferocity to the music. 'Citipati' (the protector deity in Tibetan and Vajrayana Buddhism) has a drone sound wobbling on alongside drummer Simon Segers (Black Flower, De Beren Gieren) off-kilt patterns before the drone's manipulation fizzes and sizzles in a crescendoing way, representing Citipati quite well as the deity in the form of two skeletons dancing wildly with their limbs intertwined inside a halo of flames - the song emanates this fierce atmosphere.
'Mahakala' has a quiet gong sound bouncing throughout as the sitar picking from Nicolas Mortelmans bends to the rhythm; the low end tones enter to force a more emotive sitar solo before Mattias De Craene's saxophone arrives with a wild solo twirling and wrapping around the sitar's notes. The trance energy is striking in 'Parvati' as the group sings in time with the bells, chimes and sitar at the start before the crackling electronics almost sound like a guitar that crinkles in time with the pounding toms. The sax is reminiscent of Mulatu Astatke as it glides and matches the lighter electronics that flutter behind the main rhythm - no wonder this song is fittingly named after the Hindu goddess of fertility, love, beauty, marriage, children, and devotion.
'Hanuman' and 'Kali' both utilise Sanders' electronics in creating a strong rhythm in a mysterious way, before the sitar in 'Hanuman' breaks the song into a psychedelic fever whereas 'Kali' has similarities with 'Parvati' in using the saxophone with driving, long, passionate blows that intertwine with the immense drum sound. This song alongside 'Murugan', 'Jvarasura', 'Vishnu' and 'Lakshmi' uses men and women singing either alone or in groups to provide trance-like chanting and beautiful harmonies that drift over all these exhilarating beats.
Puja is a thrilling collection of tracks that pay homage to the deities Dijf Sanders has come to learn about and contemplate in mixing this selection of psychedelic electronica with exotica trance rhythms, taking inspiration and samples from Nepalese, Tibetan, Chinese and Indian culture. The songs easily move from a meditative form of relaxation to frenetic dances - a delight either way for whatever mood you're in.
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