Last year’s Ilaiyaraaja compilation, Solla Solla, not only introduced us to the finest music the Tamil “Kollywood” film industry had to offer in the late 70s, but some of the most exciting, inventive, mind-and-genre-bending music we’d heard in a long time. A decade later, the man they simply call “The Maestro” teamed up with “Little Nightingale” KS Chithra for further explorations into what’s possible with some primitive synths, a multi-octave vocal range and more imagination than that kid Jamie and his magic torch.
In even the most unassuming arrangements, Ilaiaraaja drops string sections like The Bomb Squad drops beats; whether she’s singing atop schizoid programmed drum patterns or duetting with male counterparts over yearning melodies, Chithra’s vocals soar out the building, taking the roof, the carpet and the steel foundations with her. It shouldn’t work, but the bonkers internal logic to these songs emerges as utterly addictive and essential listening: a triumph of Ilaiyaraaja’s knowing how far to push it – and then nudging it just a little further.
Oh My Love builds and builds until you think it can’t get any more histrionic – and then launches into I Am The Walrus-style hysteric noise; Hey Maina positions synth effects and horn lines into a face-off before veering into an early 80s Prince bass breakdown augmented by a marching band. For sheer balls-to-the-wall mixology, however, Yaaro Sonnaangalaam takes some beating: that it’s the work of one artist is impressive enough. That it’s all captured in 4.29 might make you Chit your pants.