November 25, 1999
London EC1 Fabric
While it's refreshing to see an artist unconcerned with regurgitating tired old product, if this jazz jungle material is his new direction, it's something of a step back...
He's very obviously among friends tonight, is Talvin Singh. He looks comfortable. He looks like he's in his natural habitat. Here's a man whose haircut is so now it hurts, and yet it's perfectly complemented by the sleek lines and corners of London's most hyped new club space, and echoed in the sci-fi coiffures of countless nodding tabla'n'bass aficionados out on the floor.
Despite doing something as mundane, and so like, un-globalinteractivemultimediahappening as bagging the Mercury Music Prize, Talvin can still ride high on a glossy magazine-endorsed cache, safe in the knowledge that everyone around him is too scared of losing fashion points to claim that the album, 'OK', was just that. Perhaps that's why he seems to feel he can fart around so much tonight.
Unconcerned with showcasing any recognisable moments from his award-winning ethno-tronic opus, Talvin and his band instead wreak percussive havoc. Despite his undoubted skill on the tablas, Talvin really doesn't do very much. He adjusts levels, phases in futuristic sounds and he does some keyboard noodling. It all adds up to an initially frenetic, compulsive barrage of synth mantras and precision rhythms, which eventually dissipate into an improvisatory mess.
And while it's refreshing to see an artist unconcerned with regurgitating tired old product, if this jazz jungle material is his new direction, it's something of a step back. For all its faults, 'OK' is an album which pushes at boundaries, both sonic and geographic, wallowing in international influences, often with stunning results. Tonight, Talvin just consolidated his position, and never strayed too close to that cutting edge which proved so fruitful in his work and the pioneering 'Anokha' compilation.
That hair, those fingers, the whole breath-catchingly up-to-the-minute frisson of it all - well, Talvin promises a lot. He had fun, we embraced the cool. Seems like he got the better deal.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday