You can’t put Ananda Xenia Shakti and Love Power the Band in a neat little box. There’s no doubt Shakti and the band is steeped in traditional Indian music. You hear it all over their new EP Love Is Where You Are. There’s no doubt they are serious and skilled musicians. Hacks don’t deliver songs over fourteen minutes long without a single wearisome passage dragging the whole enterprise down. They are pop performers as well. Shakti’s long career has included collaborating with a diverse range of artists, including The Clash and Blondie, and a couple of cuts demonstrate the lessons learned from those partnerships. The five songs on her new EP weave those aforementioned strands into a coherent whole while adding lesser colors and shades to Love Is Where You Are’s spectrum of sound.
There’s a definite epic tilt to the EP. A few of the tracks clock in at well over the seven-minute mark but it’s notable that you don’t encounter any sense of exhaustion with the longer performances. Shakti’s long experience as a musician and songwriter, plus working with the aforementioned figures, has honed her skills for structuring compelling compositions. “Devi” begins Love is Where You Are on a bold note as it makes its Indian roots unabashed and doesn’t attempt to ease listeners in. The layers of percussion rising and falling throughout the song are the musical highlight, but there’s no question that Shakti’s voice deserves praise.
“Love Is Where You Are”, the EP’s title track, bounces by listeners with the help of energetic guitar riffing. It isn’t a sign of the singer’s rock influences bubbling to the surface; it’s impossible to hear any guitar histrionics during this cut. The guitar playing duels well, however, with the percussion and throws off sparks. Shakti’s singing is so taken with the moment and joyful. “Radha’s Grace” burns with intensity despite the relatively stripped-down approach and Shakti pursues filling a larger musical canvas than you might suspect going into the release. The vocals are far from nonsense but delivered in an almost incantatory fashion.
“Mahisasuramarchini” carries Shakti’s ambitions even further. It isn’t clear from the outset that this will be an extended number but, as it goes on, you will be more and more impressed by Shakti and the Love Power the Band’s ability to sustain a listener’s interest. The same incantatory fever sweeping over the earlier “Radha’s Grace” returns here, burning even hotter, and the temperature continues rising as the song unfolds. “I Am Love” ends the EP on another bold note, though for different reasons.
Shatki reins in his compositional daring, the song’s less than six minutes long, and pop song devices and structure are obvious throughout the track. It’s bold for its outright and impassioned insistence that any one person, thing, or entity can embody love, but you understand more before the song concludes. Each of us remains capable of embodying love and all it means. The five tracks on this EP are more joyous prayers than they are disposable products and labeling it “world music” or some other claptrap can’t dilute its transformative power.