Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5
Sitaar Tah! is a Japanese ensemble of about 30 people focusing primarily on the, uh, sitar. The music itself is very cool with layers of sitars floating on top of electronics, organ, and I think some acoustic percussion. Obviously, the music owes quite a bit to Indian music, but there are plenty of modern sensibilities at work and the occasional strain of Japanese folk sounds (sitars and kotos are not that far off from each other). If you haven't caught on yet, I have a soft spot for sitar sounds, so this album got one foot in the door without even trying. It does live up to its promise in great part, but I do have one bone to pick concerning the production. My philosophy is that trance-inducing music works best with the ambiance of a secluded, ancient mountain temple, incense wafting through the air. Tah!!!, however, too often has more of a sterile studio sound. It makes me think of some of Bela Fleck's recordings production-wise, with all the instruments clearly separated and clearly defined. I suppose it works fine for Fleck's jazzy banjo aesthetic, but I do wish this album produced a touch more haze.
The record divides up pretty well into two camps - the first five tracks and the last one. That last one, entitled "Solo," is my favorite. It scraps percussion and actually produces some of the drifting production sounds that I enjoy. While there is a pad of sitar billowing out into the cosmos, I believe that some of the actual solo is performed on the koto. Maybe. The first five tracks are more of an electronic amalgam that hits and misses in about equal qualities. "In Sight" is a fine lead off track to acclimatize the listener to the ensemble's M.O. I also dig "Foyer" quite well; especially when freaky Terry Riley-esque sequenced organ tones begin invading the track in its second half. The three tracks in the middle are far from bad, but they do skirt close to the lamer side of electronica (like the drums in "Peering Into MNDR") and/or new age (like "Into Yaman Coir") a little more often than I'd like. Usually a crazed tabla appears just in time to course correct the music.
There is quite a lot going for the sounds of Sitaar Tah!(.) It's pretty hard to go wrong with a wall of sitars in my book, although there are a few annoying characteristics that I hope the group hashes out on other recordings. This is a wonderful album to provide droning weirdness to your day.