Erik Amlee "Sitar Vol. 2"
From my brief encounters with the instrument, the sitar is one of the most difficult to play well. It's one of the most mesmerizing instruments in the world for sure, but it takes a special talent to weave magic with its sympathetic strings. Enter Northampton, Mass resident Erik Amlee. Not only does he perform in the excellent group, Paradise 23 and run the wonderful Mandragora imprint, he also makes solo sitar records. Now there's a daunting task.
"Sitar Vol. 2" doesn't disappoint. I had no idea what to expect, but from the hypnotic, haunting opening notes of "Baptized in Lotus Wine," Amlee's skill is apparent. This piece delicately unfolds like a linear dream about the sun's daily movement in the sky. With little more than a hint of delay to push the movement along, Amlee's playing is like a slow waltz at the moment the last rays of dusk are extinguished. It is simple, beautiful, and timeless.
The longest piece here is the 18+ minute "Transcendental Crossbow." The meditative undercurrents are out in full force here. It's as if each note is placed in a perfect row. There's a method to the madness that I can't quite place my finger on, but it works wonderfully. As it moves through the valleys and peaks of the imaginary, tree-lined hillside, you realize that the song has completely sucked you in.
The most memorable piece, though, is the third track, "Crouching Lioness of Night." This is simply magical. It's an Indian flavored opiate for the masses. Over it's 12 minutes, "Crouching Lioness" takes you on a trek through the cosmos before dropping you headfirst onto a shimmering, diamond-encrusted pyramid. This is pure psychedelia, here to melt your skull and free your mind. I'm completely floored by this track.
Erik Amlee might not be a sitar master in the traditional sense, but he is certainly a fantastic songwriter with the instrument. "Sitar Vol. 2" is an excellent presentation of someone trying out new ideas and new methods and absolutely succeeding. It is on CD-Rs like this where innovations come from. You don't want to miss this one. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (27 June, 2006)