My first thought when the concept of combining traditional Indian musical ideas and Western electronic music is Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat. Charanjit Singh’s masterpiece remains a staple, an example of what is possible if we simply open our minds and our ears to things beyond our scope. Arushi Jain’s instant-classic, Under the Lilac Sky, continues that lineage with stunning electronic vistas and impossibly beautiful aural landscapes, all housed within her unique framework.
One thing that stands out immediately is how Jain uses her voice not just to channel the feel of Indian music and traditional scales, but how it becomes its own instrument and as integral to the tonal underpinnings as her modular synth. “My People Have Deep Roots” soaks into this space, low-end drones mimic a pulsing harmonium and hover in the heat as Jain’s voice lifts heavenward, pushing the piece toward a bright field of stars. Her intonation and lilting timbre create sacred sonic shapes in the air as the sun and sky meditate on the change in seasons, the subtle shift in the wind.
Cascading patterns create a joyful reverie on the title track, a last burst of energy as the sun sinks below the horizon, coloring the skies in vivid hues like a fantasy world bursting to life. Sequences push beyond the classic 12-note equal temperament, again drawing on her connection and knowledge of Indian classical music, finding an understated ecstasy as her vocals are chopped and filtered through a distant prism. Synth swells resonate against static waves, her voice the guardian of that which is sacred and a reminder of the limitless moments where we can stop and hold the things we love most in the world close to our chests.
Under the Lilac Sky is a magical debut from an artist offering something completely new. There’s nothing else like Jain’s cinematic sound worlds and the individual history woven throughout is the silver thread that creates such strong connections. With each listen, I am deeply moved by the vulnerability and personal portrait that’s imbued in the music. This is not my story, but the journey it takes to find our own way within the traditions and histories of our lives and our families is a familiar one. Arushi Jain has carved her own path with Under the Lilac Sky and, moving forward, she will claim this saga as her own.
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