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Fareed Haque and The Flat Earth Ensemble - Flat Planet

Flat Planet

Fareed Haque and
The Flat Earth Ensemble

Owl Studios - OWL00133

Available from

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Haque's back and it's obvious he gets around. A short while ago, I reviewed his latest Garaj Mahal disc (here) and now comes this far more sophisticated fusion session more muscularly in the Carnatic vein. Like Gary Boyle, Haque is Indian and has a deep affinity for his native land's stunningly complex musics, importing them into Westernized potpourris brimming over with snaky chops, odd meters, and lengthy expositions. Throughout the disc, he plays guitar, Hammond B-3, bells, percussion, and what's called a "guistar" (search me!) as well as throwing in what he calls "silly vocals" (actually a common Carnatic device of counting off the rhythms and leads as an intro before playing them).

Interestingly, some his most impressive fret chops are not displayed in the more overtly Indian cuts but in The Hangar an uptempo jazz number with very strong Grant Green antecedents amid a touch of Ramsey Lewis, Haque flying over the frets like an F-18. And that's before he gets uber-prog. North is a fiery Oregon meets the Mahavishnu Orchestra cut, and South has Isotope elements with a good deal of that 70s progfusion feel and urgency. Both reside in the Four Corners Suite triad ended in West, a Charles Lloyd-ish breezy piece laid in Subrata Bhattacharya's tablas.

The album is running over with exotica—kanjira, djembe, tablas, naal, sitar—as well as keyboards, flute, sax, bass, all the usual crossplay paraphenalia, everything bent to demonstrate physical dexterity and melodic/rhythmic innovation. This may well be his best yet—the guy has put out so much great work that it's difficult to gauge such elevated levels of exposition against one another—but it most definitely peeled my ears back and, with my collection of 30,000 or so recordings, that's not an easy task.

Track List:

  • Big Bhangra
  • The Chant
  • Uneven Mantra
  • Blu Hindoo
  • Bengali Bud
  • Fur Peace
  • The Hangar
  • 32 Taxis
  • Three Movements from the Four Corners Suite:
    • North
    • South
    • West
All songs written by Fareed Haque.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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