We dissect every track on Twin Beats’ latest blistering album!
When Punjabi music enthusiasts get together to discuss the greatest Punjabi records of all time, what are the ubiquitous titles? Jeona Morh, Maa Hundi Aa Maa, Folk ‘n’ Funky, Word is Born? If you find yourself having these discussions with like-minded Bhangra heads and your list fails to include Twin Beats’ The Sounds of Punjab, your discussion unfortunately consists of people ignorant of one of the greatest Punjabi albums ever recorded. Twin Beats’ debut is a masterpiece of epic proportions, drenched in authentic Punjabi folk, sublime vocals and some of the cleverest plunderphonics – the use of Chamkila’s “Theke Te Betha Rendha” on the family friendly “Nanke V Dhadke” surely made a few 50-something males smile. From the blistering rawness of “Twins Tappe” and “Marda Lalkara” to the ethereal soul of “Kar Gaiyan Sauda” and “Challa Ishq De Rang,” The Sounds of Punjab represented the apex of Punjabi music in 2009. Now, four years later, Twin Beats return with their sophomore album humorously entitled Lektronik Zamana.
The title, which evokes the spirit of the latest effort from Tigerstyle and the more electronic dominated moments on Bally Sagoo’s Future Shock and JR Dread’s brilliant Folkin’ Bass, probably resulted in skepticism. After being blessed with a folk masterpiece in 2009, it would truly be a sad scenario to see one of the few acts that keep folk alive in today’s Bhangra market make a nosedive into electronica. And that’s exactly what seems to be the case during the intro, which features a Mohd. Sadiq sample, most likely appropriated from a live concert. Although Sadiq is the only folk element of the intro, there is no denying the menacing beat that Twin Beats drop. After hearing the intro, which unfortunately clocks in at a scant 44 seconds, skepticism is reduced. And this reduction stems from the idea that if Twin Beats are going to be dropping beats like this, a foray into electronica should be welcomed with open arms. However, Twin Beats has decided to provide the listener with the best of both worlds, as they pile on the sounds of contemporary electronic music while continuing the folk tradition of The Sounds of Punjab, resulting in a second masterpiece that easily claims the honor of being album of the year.
After the abovementioned Sadiq intro, where Sadiq alludes to VHS technology or something of that nature in the 80s, Twin Beats grabs hold of the omnipresent Nirmal Sidhu for one of his best records since he found a second life with Aman Hayer’s productions in 2005. Building on the momentum of Bups Saggu’s “Punjabi Hurrr,” Sidhu delivers another fully realized glorification of Punjabis. Referencing the current influence of Punjabi music in Bollywood, which has a resulted in an abhorrent hybrid, and paying tribute to Dara Singh, “Top of the World” is just a splendid celebration of being Punjabi. And if you only know Dara Singh for his cantankerous roles in films like Jab We Met, do your research: the man was a renowned professional wrestler and treasured enforcer in acclaimed films like Dharmatma. And like Dharmendra, he’s one of our immortal tough guys, so it’s definitely nice to hear Twin Beats and Nirmal Sidhu pay homage to the late icon on a highly percussive track, featuring relentless bruahs.
After squeezing another Bhangra banger out of the bankable Nirmal Sidhu, the dreaded dhoom dhoom lak lak, notably used in Sunny Deol’s Dillagi, makes an appearance. But fortunately, Twin Beats salvage what was tarnished by Bollywood by layering the onomatopoeia with a rustic amalgamate of tumbi, dhol and tabla before Billa Ferozepuri comes in with the vocals. One of the better songs of 2013, “Gabru Bigad Gaya” blends electronic and traditional percussion and features a solid vocal projection towards the end of the chorus before the soulful harmonium kicks in. Worth noting is the manipulation of the percussion in the final chorus, which just adds to the greatness of this particular gem of a track.
After two lively numbers, it’s time for ballads. And if you’re familiar with The Sounds of Punjab, you know that Twin Beats are quite adept at creating quality slow-burners. Initially backed by a sparse string arrangement, Aalam Jaseep lays down divine vocals on “Has Laiyaan Yaarian” before being complemented by an unconventional choice of percussion, featuring Bappi Lahiri-esque sound effects, which prove to be effective. “Kaali Audi,” featuring Meet Malkit, seems to share the same vocalist and sarangi sample that was on Taj-E’s “Hai Ni Hai,” but whilst Taj-E’s tune was a rustic affair, Twin Beats has opted for a more polished approach. Although it’s a quality tune, Twin Beats decide to build on it with a remix that concludes the album. Blending the mandolin with minimal electronics, Twin Beats also make use of the wah-wah pedal, which is usually reserved for Blaxploitation and 70s Adult film soundtracks. What sounds like an absurd decision actually works as Inder and Pram seamlessly blend conflicting instruments for a fitting climax to a brilliant album.
Bikram Singh makes an appearance on “Sohni Jehi Kudi,” which recycles a Yamla Jatt sample, but freshens it up by inventively mashing the folk legend with the Minneapolis sound pioneered by Prince in the late 70s and early 80s. After the electro-funk of “Sohni Jehi Kudi,” Twin Beats decide to sate the appetites of folk-heads with “Lok Boliyan,” featuring powerful vocals from the flawless Saini Surinder. Combining perfect hekhs, aggressive dhol playing and a tumbi that sounds like it belongs on a VHS copy of a Sadiq akhada, “Lok Boliyan” is authentic folk and represents Punjabi music in its purest form.
Adding some depth to the album, Bakshi Billa drops some patriotic verses over the blood-boiling “Seva Desh Di.” Without venturing into jingoism, the track evokes the spirit of Skillz Inc.’s classic Do or Die with a hard combination of authoritative clangs and militant vocals, making for a touching moment that reminds us never to forget the atrocities committed against our people.
Aalam Jasdeep makes another appearance on “Koi Gulab Nahi” where he, once again, lays down divine vocals over a magnificent composition, linking together the harmonium, sarangi and Neptunesque electronics. It’s already been mentioned that “Gabru Bigad Gaya” and “Lok Boliyan” are among the best tracks of 2013. Well, you can also add “Koi Gulab Nahi” to that list.
En Karma’s frontman Inder Kooner makes a welcomed appearance on “Tohri Jehi Awaaz.” Do you ever find yourself criticizing party DJs for their questionable song selections? Or perhaps, you find your aging self growing irate with 19 year old DJs who are ignorant of Shin, Balwinder Safri and Heera. Although this growing frustration can result in a hateful track, “Tohri Jehi Awaaz” simply asks the party DJ, affectionately referred to as shera, to turn the volume up so everybody can enjoy themselves. A simple request for Surjit Bindrakhia’s “Dupatta Tera Satrang Da” is also made. Kooner carries himself competently on this track, especially during the locomotive of percussion at the beginning of the chorus. And it should be mentioned that Twin Beats’ usage of the mandolin on this track is exquisite.
“Gehdian” reunites Inder and Pram with Jaswinder Daghamia, one of the most gifted contemporary Punjabi vocalists. Although Twin Beats could have played it safe and duplicated the success of the monstrous “Twins Tappe,” they’ve decided to show their range by providing Daghamia with an accelerated production that the proficient vocalist effortlessly flows over. After the lively “Gehdian,” Supnandeep Kaur, the only female singer on the record, slows things down with the poignant “Rakhle Lakhon Ke.” Initially backed by just a piano, Kaur’s superb vocals are indicative of Twin Beats’ ear for gifted vocalists. A lot of successful vocalists have found themselves salvaged by loud productions that compensate for their mediocrity, but Supnandeep Kaur is an elegant talent that smoothly flows over both a minimal piano and a “Sili Sili Hawa” inspired production.
As mentioned earlier, The Sounds of Punjab is one of the essential Punjabi albums. And when you drop a masterpiece as your debut, sophomore slumps are inevitable. But Lektronik Zamana ventures into a rare category of albums, including Folk ‘n’ Funky and Pump Up the Bhangra, where the artist releases a sophomore product that is equal to or better than their masterful debut. Not only does Lektronik Zamana measure up to The Sounds of Punjab, but it sees Twin Beats further develop and diversify their sound. Rather than creating a carbon copy of their debut, Twin Beats took four years to create a near-perfect product. When it comes to quality Punjabi music, there seems to be a famine in today’s world. But a record like Lektronik Zamana is what restores faith in the art form. Punjabi albums just don’t get much better than this one.
We give Lektronik Zamana 4.5 out of 5
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