Drawing upon his half-Russian ancestry and the strong Indian classical influences in his work, Michael Robinson has christened his latest work Rajasthani Spring, a title that also suits the effervescent character of the piece. As discussed in Robinson's recent textura interview, the seed for Rajasthani Spring was planted serendipitously when he heard Caribou's “Second Chance” (featuring vocals by Jessy Lanza) during a visit to Amoeba Music on Hollywood Boulevard; suitably entranced, Robinson purchased Caribou's Our Love and, using the aforementioned song as inspiration, developed a rasa that blossomed into the work as a whole. As he has in his previous works, Robinson again uses his customized meruvina to generate a global orchestra, with kawala, biwa, kane, gu, furin bell, tabla, dholak, dhol, and ghatam bols among the instrument sounds involved.
After opening with an alluring, low-pitched flute trill, the full ensemble enters a mere twelve seconds into the piece, the flute now accompanied in the work's first section by a dizzying phalanx of hand drums as well as tamboura drone and motorik funk groove. Interspersed between the flute's ecstatic expressions and the roiling percussive flow are ear-catching percussive effects that intensify the music's mesmerizing quality, percussive treatments that persist into the second section alongside the wild, roller coaster-like vocalizings of a bowed string kamanche from Turkey and the metallic tinkle of the furin bell. As the piece advances into an uproarious episode spearheaded by the light-speed glissandi of the Japanese kane, it's clear that one of the most appealing aspects of Rajasthani Spring is the irrepressible spirit of joy and celebration it exudes, as well as its infectious dance-like character. Refreshingly free of anything one might call dour or lugubrious, the work teems with positivity.
If I seem, however, a tad less enthralled by Rajasthani Spring than The Spirit Pool and the recordings that came before it, it's simply because Rajasthani Spring treads some of the same ground already covered in The Spirit Pool. There's the rhythm base, for example, that persists in largely unwavering manner from start to finish, as well as the tamboura-like drone that also extends throughout (Robinson himself acknowledges that “Rajasthani Spring and my three previous compositions have roughly similar designs”). And while the album-length works presented on Robinson's previous releases have checked in at forty-two minutes or thereabouts, Rajasthani Spring is thirty-two, which suggests that a second setting of, say, ten-minute duration of dramatically different character could have been included. Such a gesture would have allowed for interesting contrast between the pieces and perhaps offered a hint of the direction the next release might take. In light of that, Robinson's comment that he's “contemplating a work for solo keyboard after listening to Beethoven Piano Sonatas as performed by Alfred Brendel” is thus encouraging. All such qualifications aside, Rajasthani Spring nevertheless impresses as another engrossing work of superior quality and craft by the California-based composer, and there's no denying that Robinson's voice is a singular one. Certainly no one of whom I'm aware has produced anything like Rajasthani Spring, The Spirit Pool, Hummingbird Canyon, Lucknow Shimmer, and Lahaina Lanterns, the remarkable quintet of recordings Robinson's issued since 2013.