'It's an unconventional way of working which seems to have brought him plenty of...
Jon Lusk 2003
In terms of lyrical and musical themes, this sixth album from South East London's ever productive songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist more or less picks up where he left off on his 1999 album "Beyond Skin".
In between then and now, he's recorded the globetrotting collaborative effort "Prophesy" and worked on the music for a recent TV adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, among other projects - the song "Waiting (O Mistress Mine)" features words penned by the bard himself. Other than that, "Human" includes contributions from several long term colleagues of Sawhney who've become familiar largely through previous appearances on his albums. These include the whispery vocals of Tina Grace and the comforting tones of Bengali vocalist Jayanta Bose as well as Anglo-Yemeni singer Natasha Atlas.
In stylistic terms, the Asian, flamenco, trip-hop, house and R&B flavoured musical collage he's become known for still forms the basis of much of the material. And the use of vocal sound bites is a continuing trademark. But this time around there are more new voices than ever. Most notable among these are The Streets' Kevin Mark Trail, Jacob Golden, Alani, Matt Hayles and Reena Bhardwaj - who alternates between English and Hindi as if she were two different singers.
Though "Human" offers few surprises in terms of what might be expected from Nitin Sawhney, long term fans probably won't be disappointed. The album lacks any real standout moments such as the title track of Prophesy although "Say Hello" comes closest with its hypnotic refrain, atmospheric percussion and swooning strings.
Since he never uses his own voice, but only those of other artists, there's something of a man-shaped hole at the centre of his music. Yet it seems that the more diverse his collaborations become the more we see of Sawhney himself. It's an unconventional way of working which seems to have brought him plenty of acclaim at the same time as giving other artists their breaks. And that's something to be applauded.