The Unseen Guest - Out There
By Mark Hensch
The debut album from singer/songwriter
duo Declan Murray and Amith Narayan (jointly named the Unseen Guest) astound
listeners on both sides of the world with music that's international, eclectic,
strange, quiet, sparse, and interesting. The story of how The Unseen Guest
was spawned is amazing as well; a traveler to the lower half of India,
a man named Declan Murray, would later meet his bandmate, an Indian by
the name of Amith Naraya. The bard-like Murray had an impromptu jam session
with Amith, later resulting in an e-mail and a return trip to the Kerala
region of India for an actual CD. Besides it's recording in India, the
disc would later be mastered in Ireland and would feature (besides its
line-up of Murray and Narayan) a revolving door of six musical collaborators,
most of them local Indian artists happy to record for a friend and play
instruments unique to the land of India.
Thus this is what makes Out There
so interesting. Murray has a flair for writing straight-up, introspective,
and subtle acoustic pieces of Western alternative. Combined with the much-more
interesting (at least for a Westerner like me) array of Indian instruments,
such as dholaks, tablas, ganjras, and mridangams to name a few, this CD
is the perfect example of a relaxed and peaceful driving/reading/sleeping/thinking
album. Somewhat independent, the CD is also self-released, a tribute to
music by a group of men who live for it, be it foreign melodies or more
Take the opening track "Let Me In" as an
example. Clean pop chords are strummed but before you can pass this off
as some folksy pretender, some interesting twists are added. Strange Indian
percussions are thrown in for a tripping beat, and other instruments provide
an almost taunting orchestration background to the song, their weird strings
perfectly backing the more conventional guitars and lead vocals. As a side
note, Murray's vocals are quiet, talented, and interesting. The lyrics
are superb and abnormal, less about bleeding hearts and more about searching
through cryptic clues for messages of life.
"In The Black" is a soothing dual between
crystal-clear guitar and Indian instruments, with tropping Sanskrit percussions
adding several more hooking elements sure to peak the interest of the listener.
"Anywhere Somewhere" is one of the most
straightforward tracks in terms of Eastern musical influences, and the
dual vocals are amazingly reflective and awe-inspiring, in that quiet "driving
down a dark road for the hell of it looking at the stars" kind of way.
"Listen My Son" is bouncy, twangy, and
largely Western folk-pop, complete with some banjo strumming. Despite the
appearance of the Mandolin, and some interesting pieces for it, I feel
that this is one of the less entertaining tracks on the CD, albeit still
a good one. It's got that "friend-to-friend" wisdom, almost preachy, in
the lyrics, and it's an awesome driving tune; it just lacks the mind blowing
fun of the first few songs.
"Mangala Express" is one of the strongest
tracks on the album, a wholly instrumental piece that is almost totally
Indian in instrumentation. Great, peaceful, and free-flowing Eastern melodies,
free from the bonds of sense or reason that sometimes make Western tunes
The equally grand "Sandalista" is the first
success on this CD mixing bounce and "step-in-foot" dynamics between Eastern
and Western conventions of music. The mix of Indian percussion, funky bass
lines, and strumming guitar fuses together flawlessly for a great sing-along
song by the pool in the sun. "Out There" is an awesome upbeat jam with
some oddly fitting harmonium parts. It's tick-tock beats are sure to have
people bobbing their heads with grins on their faces.
"Circle in the Dirt" is twangy ballading
with Eastern percussions. "One Down" has bluesy harmonica, pianos, and
more Indian percussions for a fun eclectic grab-bag of alternative.
"Never Enough", with its jamming coffee
barista fun, is like seeing an upbeat and talented jam band on the streets
of a crowded city play just for you. It's also a fitting song to close
with; even after somewhere around forty-five minutes of stellar songwriting,
I feel like I haven't had enough of these musicians, and it just might
be "never enough."
In conclusion, amazing pop rock for people
all over the Earth. Generally, alternative/pop/folk is not my cup of tea,
but having been to Asia once I find the Eastern take on music very compelling,
and The Unseen Guest doesn't disappoint. This is the high-point of chill-out
music with worldly flair. If you like music, and are willing to take minor
risks, do yourself (and the band) a favor by purchasing this wonderful
gem of an album.
Guest - Out There
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