L. SHANKAR – Chepleeri Dream

Cleopatra 2020

Chepleeri Dream

When all is bliss, one’s reverie will turn into reality, with SHAKTI founder providing a soundtrack.

The return to India has invigorated Lakshminarayana Shankar who made it his mission to expose the beauty of Kerala to music aficionados – which is why, possibly, “Chepleeri Dream” may be the least exotic, at least to a Westerner’s ear, of the veteran’s records. Hot on the heels of 2019’s “Face To Face” where he was overtly applying for mass appeal, that album’s follow-up sees L. land on pure pop ground and probe the deceptively lightweight idiom for profound meaning. Many would consider this an unexpected development or even a regress but there’s a lot of grace here.

No wonder, then, that, with its nigh-new-age keyboards and almost-aloof vocals set against a nervous beat, “In My Heart” will gradually reveal the record’s soulful core, as Shankar’s shimmering riffs shroud the groove in entrancing soundscape. And if “Faith” offers more assertive aural moves – thanks to the muscular approach from Chester Thompson and Tony Levin, two of the master’s guests here – his soft voice lifts the dancefloor to a spiritual plateau. Perhaps, there’s too much vocoder-processing in “Spreading All Over” whose melodic meandering is hypnotic yet, given the eventual advent of L.’s violin, this number can be a key to the entire record, the anthemic “Can’t Wait” rocking the sonic puzzle’s pieces into a neat pattern with the help of KORN’s Jonathan Davis and JANE’S ADDICTION’s Stephen Perkins.

This is when the epic title track unfurls to carry Sri Thirumeni Guruji’s chant towards vibrant, albeit sparse, panoramic fusion that finds the leader’s strings scale glaciers and melt the silence, while the warm “Knowing You” has cosmic consciousness written all over its slow, spacey funk, Scott Page’s sax condensing the cut’s soaring into a few succulent curlicues. Still, whatever urgency seems to hide beneath such blissed-out surface, “Patience” should introduce a different kind of tension to the flow and become the album’s most memorable song. Sure, as a whole “Chepleeri Dream” feels a bit simplistic, but the promised depth is there – and is worth mining.


August 29, 2020

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