A blend of Indian inspired loops and ragas with electronics, contemporary jazz and a touch of German rock…

Bellaphon Records CDLR 584020

Max Clouth: electric guitar; Martin Standke, drums; Peter Puskas, bass; Georg Boerner, keyboards.

Band recordings were made in Germany, whilst individual guest artists recorded in their hometowns.  Such was the effect of COVID19.

Ragawerk is the new project and album by guitarist Max Clouth and drummer Martin Standke in which they have created a blend of Indian inspired loops and ragas with electronics, contemporary jazz and a touch of German rock (Krautrock).

The melding of jazz music and Indian raga is nothing new; John Coltrane, Joe Harriott and John McLaughlin all played the two styles melded together as Indo-Jazz fusion, this from the 1960s.

The quartet Ragawerk, previously known as the Max Clouth Clan, is completed by bassist Peter Puskas and keyboardist Georg Boerner, but the album includes contributions from a range of musicians, mostly from Indian heritage, playing cello, guitars, keys, sitar, tabla, violin and voice.

The raga and its musical relationship to jazz is a fascinating subject in itself.  The raga puts together an arrangement of harmonious structures with musical motifs.  The Indian custom is that these assemblies are able to colour the perception, hence affecting the listeners’ passions.

Each raga offers a musical framework within which to improvise, but this is controlled by the rules of the raga.  Improvisation by the musician involves creating sequences of notes allowed by the raga in keeping with rules specific to the raga.  The music is based around scales and so can be improvised accordingly.

Standke and Clouth seem to regard this form of improvisation as something other than Indo-Jazz fusion and to my ear it certainly doesn’t sound absolutely like that.  They admit that some of their pieces are raga-based, but are so thoroughly wrapped up in the band’s own sound that the thought of Indo-Jazz fusion does not enter their perception.

They take that raga, but put it into their own context, without adhering to all the cultural rules and it is that which defines their music. They see it maybe as an Indo-electronica dance album in which the application of raga, alongside Ragawerk’s electronica, provides an attractive formula which answers the perennial question “What now?” Using some of what skills and ideas they already have is a good direction to start.

Reviewed by Ken Cheetham