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Krithi captures rhythmic motion on her pulsating debut album ‘Pada-Pada-Ppu’

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Though Krithi’s most recent summer album, Pada-Pada-Ppu (படபடப்பு), contains tracks that are free of lyrics, it is anything but silent or without a message. 

Pada-Pada-Ppu
Krithi – Pada-Pada-Ppu (படபடப்பு)

The nine-track album features a variety of pulses, beats, and colors from the Subcontinent to create a rhythmic repast for the ears. Indeed, the album’s name means “palpitations,” in Tamil and interweaves varied and compelling rhythmic structures with a rich palette of melodic motion. Though certain timbres and rhythms are distinctly reminiscent of the Carnatic music and Tamil folk music that Krithi draws her inspiration from, Western influence on the pieces is also undeniable. These features in the compositions as sampled bites from jazz, electronica, downtempo, and ambient music. Together, they form a uniquely situated soundscape that deftly fuses Indian and Western music together. 

The Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter is no stranger to producing and remixing sounds from both the East and West, but this is her first release that largely highlights the instrumental aspect of the pieces. Her two previous EPs, a 2016 release self-titled Krithi, and a 2018 release titled Standards I, feature hauntingly beautiful covers and a lively handful of jazz and electronica.

Krithi Rao
Krithi Rao.

Pada-Pada-Ppu really feels like an album to be consumed as a whole, instead of song by song. It opens with “In Darkness,” tugging listeners in with a subtle, percussive beat that crescendos into an electronic sketch that creates a satisfying sense of perpetual motion while also offering moments of tension and release. Krithi also samples sounds from nature, pulling in quiet, unidentifiable churrs, rumbles, and crickets that toss listeners in both a complex soundscape and landscape. Still, each track allows a different instrument to speak, while maintaining the rhythmic integrity that operates as the backbone of the entire album, in much the same way that pulse and cadence drive our literal bodies. “Vannam” opens with the upper register of a marimba, which lends it a shimmering, effervescent voice that continues to be carried throughout the piece in the strings. Interestingly, Krithi has composed the pieces in such a way that even when the dark, rich melodies take over, the rhythm is impossible to ignore. While the instrumentation isn’t huge in the way an orchestra might be, each piece is undeniable full. 

What’s fascinating and novel about Krithi’s thrilling exploration of the encounter between East and West is her attentiveness to rhythm. The fusion between the classical music of India and Western classical, jazz and popular music often operates within the sphere of melody. The lyricism of Indian melodies can be heard in jazz and a broad sweep of rock. The rhythmic system has been adapted more slowly, but can now be heard in jazz-rock and minimalist works, such as the ones by Philip Glass. At its heart, Pada-Pada-Ppu is all the more powerful for letting the beats speak for us and Krithi’s use of electronics alongside traditional rhythms and voices makes the album a formidable, novel, and absolutely lovely musical adventure.

Pada-Pada-Ppu is out now on most major streaming services.

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