State of Bengal's "Flight IC408" loops a snake-charmer surf guitar while the Milky Bat Kid's "Accepting Trankuility" drops art-hop complex enough to make Tortoise smile (or sweat) with respect. That kind of cross-cultural style swiping--the way Indian film-score genius A.R. Rahman's 19th-century string arrangement "Mumbia Theme Tune" melts into Singh and Leone's cyber-sultry Brit-hop tune "Distant God," or how Indian percussion (tablas) and Western dance music (drum 'n' bass) function as kin on many of these tracks--suggests the start of a positive kind of postglobal muso-ethos we've all been jonesing for. Sorry there, Hill; it takes a breakbeat.
Anokha is smart, serious stuff, at times so distant from bhangra it almost comes off as a bit ashamed of its musical heritage. Which may be why the lighthearted Hindi house music on the, as of now, import-only Eastern Uprising: Dance Music From the Asian Underground works so nicely as Anokha's companion/foil. As poppy and, at times, deeply cheesy as classic bhangra, these house/techno/trip-hop tracks screw together the tantric and the trancey, at times with surprisingly nifty results. Cocoon inexplicably turns the sloppiest Portishead rip-off ever into shehnai-soaked drum 'n' bass while Black Star Liner refracts Sufi singers off sampler non sequiturs; both suggest semiarty aspirations. But corny Safri Goes to Bollywood (love that name!) and political toasters Asian Dub Foundation make the best art here by going to obscene lengths to create crafty, even kitschy, good times. No, it isn't exactly a postcolonial Chic of our dreams, but it's getting there.