Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Al Gromer Khan
Divan I Khas (Visions of the Mogul Prince)

Released 1984 on Beyond
Reviewed by gogmagog, 13/08/2007ce

Alois Gromer might best be known to most of you as the sitarist from Popol Vuh's sublime Heart of Glass and Nosferatu scores. This is a solo LP from 1984, which was re-released and remastered in 1987 on the American Beyond Label.

Probably falling, then disappearing, into the quagmire of new age releases that proliferated in the mid-eighties (are you listening Windham Hill), this LP actually has a lot more going for it, just like the later Vuh releases of the eighties.

Fans of the Nosferatu score will be delighted, as although the first track sounds like Gogol Bordello on industrial strength methadone, the LP soon falls into an affecting eastern paradigm. The tracks "Hirubilal Pt 1" and "Piz Pakiza" go together to make up a sublime sitar extemporisation as good as any Shankar or Shakti LP. What's so delightful about Gromer's improvisations is the curious mix of european and eastern sensibilites that also brought so much to the vuh releases, and there are subtle suggestions of some popol vuh numbers in his phrasings on these tracks.

But he has every right to I guess, and indeed fans of the Nosferatu OST will be doubly delighted to learn that "The Anahat Syndrome" is a post-modern update of his own "Venus Principle" from that LP. But here we have Blade Runner-period Vangelis synths echoing in the distance, before a sudden outbreak of tabla from fellow Vuh sessionist Ted de Jong, and a beatuiful synthesised violin line - before the meta-melody erupts once more - bold and majestic and heavily ornate - could be Atem by Tange at this point - if they'd paid more attention to tonality at that stage in their careers! It's a great re-write and, with the preceeding 8 mintues of bliss, makes for the highligfht of the LP.

"Barghat Anga" brings the tone down a bit, getting experimental - droning sitars are plucked monotonously, discordant and eerie, and very third ear band..er...ey! Then the reprise of "Hirubilal Pt. 2" - a more Vuh-like drone proceeds..distant and subtle...like they're in the studio down the road from the one where the tape is rolling..but it works great. Like a burgeoning sunset - this is the stuff they should be playing at the Cafe del Mar instead of Save the Plankton! or some other similarly named rubbish from mid-80's Tangerine Dream.

the next track "Zuban" starts in great form - it sounds like he's knicked the bass synth from Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric" and then covered it in myriad cascading synth washes and sitar strokes - quite beautiful! - the synths are probably digital but they don't particularly strike one as such - they have a warm resonance - and suddenly the track flowers into a chord change which is quite stunning. However, as it goes on this track does get a little wearing, and the Strawberry fields descending harp-effects don't help matters.

However, this is a very minor gripe, and the last track, "Oiram Quartz" restores the dignity no end. Back doing what he does best er.."Our Friend" Al is picking gilmour-like at a heavily-effected sitar, while a tremulous synth warbles away in the back ground - this could easily be late seventies cluster, or roedelius's (touched-by-the-hand-of-god) selbstportrait series of LP's.
As such, it makes for a relaxing end to this most relaxing of LP's.

Fans of sitar music, classical indian music, and new-age synth touches will definitely find much to delight them here. And of course, its a nice addition for the Vuh-heads to add to their collection, or fans of Between, late seventies Cluster, or even Siegfried Schwab's Meditation LP, with which it shares a distant but underlying peaceful atmosphere.


Reviews Index