In Other Words is the debut record from the young duo Anhad + Tanner, which consists of New Delhi’s Anhad Khanna and Durham’s Tanner Willeford. Clocking in at just over half an hour, the record traverses an array of densely packed soundscapes that combine an array of styles—the grandiosity of classical music, the subtleties of jazz, the sprawling nature of Indian raga, and the pomp of electronic dance music—into something fresh and invigorating.
Throughout the album, Khanna builds rich electronic palettes, while Willeford’s classical and jazz piano stylings guide the tracks in unexpected directions. The album opens with a tone-setting piece, “Jiya II,” that slowly unfurls with washed-out keys and rich string arrangements. But as it progresses, new elements bubble into the mix: Atmospheric vocals from Isheeta Chakrvarty hover over the instrumentation while white-noise sweeps and subtle, downtempo electronic drums bounce on either side of the mix.
Every track on In Other Words feels like a fully fleshed-out world, but they all string together on a unifying thread: the recontextualization of Indian musical traditions and Western electronic structures. Tabla replace hi-hats as a driving percussive force, flutes and sitars replace snarling synth whorls, and Hindustani vocals display warm vibrato, then get chopped into stutter steps or reversed to make ambient flourishes and textures.
Traditionally, Indian classical music doesn’t feature counterpoint, but Anhad + Tanner toss that expectation out the window with tracks like “Gum” (featuring Kamakshi Khanna and Vibhor Mathur). We hear a mixture of melodies: Soaring flutes blend with delayed guitar lines and ethereal vocals, all sitting delicately atop soft piano chords. As soon as the track feels like it’s settling into a low-key groove, hand drums slip into the mix and blend with electronic drum and bass to breathe new life into the song.
While the music sometimes called “Asian Underground,” from which mainstream genres like bhangra arose, isn’t new—artists like Karsh Kale have been blending Indian classical and folk with electronic music for decades—Anhad + Tanner has a fresh take on the genre, seamlessly blending traditions into a new, unified sound. In Other Words is a powerful debut with ambitious goals and mesmerizing results.
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