Boomkat Product Review:
Amirtha Kidambi's third full-length recording with her band Elder Ones.
"Amirtha Kidambi has long affirmed that the role of music in the act of protest is pivotal. In the summer of 2020, the Brooklyn-based vocalist and composer was immersed in mass demonstrations across New York City in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, organizing bands to counter the violent presence of militarized police. “Without venues, we played in the streets, with DIY concerts popping up under bridges, in tunnels, using generators, extension cords run out of storefronts and galleries, bringing the sound of experimental and revolutionary music to a larger public, ” Kidambi recalls. For an artist and activist who once cultivated community at defunct Brooklyn spaces such as Death By Audio and the Silent Barn, these protests became a place to publicly amplify the underground. “We gained tools and tactics, we have understood the power of collectivity, that same power that I feel as an improvising musician, where hierarchies are eliminated and individuals come together to assert their voices communally.”
That subversive spirit of collective dismantlement and reassemblage serves as the catalyst for the longform cuts that comprise 'New Monuments'. Tracked at Figure 8 Studios above Prospect Park, the album is the work of an artist concerned with numerous interconnected sites of global conflict: among them, the farmers’ protests over agricultural reforms in India, the evolution of the Iranian women’s rights movement following the death of Mahsa Amini, and the continuous crescendoing call for Palestinian liberation.
This time, the Elder Ones collective consists of saxophonist Matt Nelson, cellist Lester St. Louis, bassist Eva Lawitts, and drummer Jason Nazary—all four of whom contribute their share of electronic textures and electroacoustic treatments. As a document of dissent, these four compositions give proof that improvisation is instrumental in the realm of resistance. Kidambi’s voice hovers over a scorched sonic landscape equally informed by Black American liberation music, the devotional fervor of Indian Carnatic, and the unleashing of an inner scream listeners might associate with hardcore punk and harsh noise.
'New Monuments' pays homage to “all those who tirelessly organize and resist against insurmountable headwinds”. To be sure, the propulsive presence of repetition, mantra, and call-and-response patterns instantly elicit a protest at its peak, and what remains is an ensemble ecology that fluctuates between consonance and collision."