- Breezy, lo-fi house that exudes the timeless beauty of the classic Indian records it samples.
- In a parable from Mathnawi, a seminal work of Sufi poetry by Rumi, Chinese and Greek artists hold a painting competition. Each group is given a house to paint and while the former go to town, the Greeks simply clean their house so thoroughly that it reflects the brilliant work of the Chinese artists. "The Chinese figures and images shimmeringly reflected on the clear Greek walls," Rumi wrote. "They lived there, even more beautifully, and always changing in the light."
Like the Greeks, new kids on the block Baalti (a Hindi word for "bucket") take a no-fuss, straightforward approach to house music on their debut EP for Mumbai-based label Krunk Kulture. The San Francisco-based duo of Jaiveer Singh and Mihir Chauhan repackage Bengali disco, Hindustani classical and Pakistani folk from the '70s and '80s into carefree, lo-fi house that brings to mind the sun-drenched grooves of Lord Echo and murky density of Opal Tapes releases. The beauty of Baalti's work is its simplicity. With a cruise-control tempo and relatively minimal arrangements, their self-titled EP has a quiet confidence to it. It treads softly and doesn't immediately bowl you over or trigger knee-jerk reactions but gets under your skin without you realising it.
Three of Baalti's four tracks ("Aame," "Kolkata '78" and "Me & You & Rob From M.A.D.") occupy the sweet spot between downtempo and minimal house, with poignant vocals and cascading chords that radiate warmth and cheer. The exuberance is balanced by a lo-fi fuzz, which both adds shadows and accentuates the EP's sharper edges. The other track, "Ustad," is the EP's highlight, as hypnotic tablas and chants go head-to-head with soaring synths, creating deep, mesmerising rhythms that feel like palate cleansers.
Rather than deconstruct or twist samples into mutant shapes, Singh and Chauhan let them breathe. There is a fair bit of choppage, layering and sequencing that highlights the quirks of retro recordings—things like heavy breathing and distinct vocal intonations—but most samples such as Rupa Biswas' "Ayee Morshume Be-Reham Duniya" from her 1982 album Disco Jazz are preserved and embellished with added drum loops and breaks. It's a common technique but when well-executed, it makes vintage sounds shine.
"There's a 'swampiness'—dense atmospheres, fun twangy frequencies, mid-heavy mixing—in the quality of these old recordings that fits in really well with the kind of lo-fi house we're making," the duo told Resident Advisor. "A lot of these recordings are super unhinged and playful, a lot of the funk and disco songs don't follow a metronome either, which gives them a really loose and lively feel that works really well for house."
Baalti's clean-cut style isn't new or unusual, but it stands out for its impact. Uplifting and melodic, their first EP facilitates clarity and peace of mind. Like a good T-shirt, it's unassuming and unpretentious but quickly becomes a staple in your collection.
03. Kolkata '78
04. Me & You & Rob From M.A.D.