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Lately, I haven’t had a surplus of time. It’s been hard to devote myself to exploring a new album by one of the many genius producers that I have gotten to know in the greater sound design community. There are quite a few new names on the scene that are making sounds that are outrageously otherworldly, as if human instruments didn’t exist. Obviously, a number of other artists are re-creating styles and themes, either by remaining safely traditional, or by blatantly replicating a hot sound that is helping producers “blow up.” There are a few musicians that I have been unable to ignore as the years go by, and who I find myself longing to write about. More and more, Govinda comes to mind.
Over the years, Govinda’s quality of sound has become more nuanced. Where I once observed his live act to be just a charismatic guy plucking his violin over some abrasive bass beats, I know now that there are many facets to the musical mind of Shane Madden. Classically trained at Austin’s University of Texas, Govinda’s musical mind is delightfully malleable, allowing him to gather new inspiration wherever his travels take him. Relentlessly touring alongside his live act’s second half, ritual dancer Jordan Proper, he is always striking while the iron is hot and attempting to leave a lasting impression. I can say with confidence that this tactic has worked for Govinda.
Our community is often a big traveling think tank, and collaborating to help push a fellow producer to not compromise is more pervasive than ever. I have been present in rooms while Shane communicated with the likes of Eartha Harris (Living Light), and Random Rab about creating higher levels of work. The real difference for Govinda has been being able to create when inspiration strikes. “I have been on the road so much the last few years I had to produce in the cracks,” Madden said, “But now I’ve found a way to write and produce on the road with a mobile studio. Then I can take what I have worked on to my home studio and finish it there.”
His productions have always included both a sensual and fiery dynamic, with a romantic ethos akin to the Argentine Tango. Heavy bass has always been present as well. In the last few years though, the structure and attention to detail within his compositions has become undeniably pristine. The music on Decadence is crafted for world class sound systems and audiophiles along with those simply ready to rage. Dub vibes have replaced heavy drops, his violin is the backbone instead of just an add on. It’s no wonder why no-nonsense Gravitas Records is the label stamp on this release years in the making. As Govinda describes it, “This album is my interpretation of what an orgasm of all of the human senses sounds like.”
Decadence features an array of vocalists from all over the map, including Laurie Ann Haus, Paisley Starfire, Robert Skiles, Britannia Born, Tina Rodrigez and Nizami. Govinda worked via the web with all of the artists to gather their contributions to the songs, all of which are refreshingly unique and moving. Madden is even featured singing on one track, a homage to a time where he routinely performed vocals on music he created.
“Dervish” hypnotizes us right away. It bumps like a half-time Hallucinogen-in-Dub tune, with a lot of that sporadic psy-trance movement paired with mellow vocal effects by Pakistani artist Nizami. I got down to “Beautiful Mystery” last time I saw Govinda headline the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM). The combination of funky breaks and prominent and strong string melody makes for an amazingly weird scene on the dancefloor.
“House Inside The Mountain” may be my favorite tune on the album. Accordion and glitch is a helluvah combination. Britannia Born’s Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland-esque melody is loopy and is complimented nicely by the silky spanish words spoke by Robert Skiles of Beto and Fairlines, an Austin-based latin jazz band. “Lost My Mind” includes lyrics written by Govinda regarding a psychotic break while on ecstasy, an experience not uncommon to many today. The production here falls in the realm of Tipper disciples like Bogtrotter and Somatoast, but with a heavy emphasis on an almost baroque style. Choral samples, twinkling harp and effective percussion add to the auditory space around Britannia and Madden’s vocals.
“Lasers” completes Decadence with a sound that sounds almost like psy-house. The pace is significantly faster that the rest of the album and the overall result is dope. I hope to hear more like this from Govinda, maybe even as a side project. Paisley Starfire’s smooth jazz vocals are played with and presented in multiple octaves. I could see this tune translating over to all kinds of element of the general public, it even has that future bass vibe that Soulection and now Flume are capitalizing on.
It’s an amazing feeling to know that an album turned out to be as innovative and great as I thought it would, based on experiencing the tunes at live Govinda shows over the past few years. It never ceases to amaze me how today there truly are no rules or particular processes to how we come to experience music. I recently read a Vice article about how in today’s culture, writing about albums is obsolete due to how people are now put onto new music on their own. Releases like Govinda’s Decadence allow me the opportunity to create with my art form, words, and to paint a picture of the effect the music has on me. Once again, my resolve to continue my work is renewed by the musical representation of the blood and sweat of a master musician.