December 28, 2016

"Elder Ones Holy Science Review" - Pitchfork Magazine

by Seth Colter Walls

A fixture of New York’s experimental scene, the vocalist Amirtha Kidambi makes her bandleading debut on Holy Science, fusing classical Indian music, drone, and free jazz with an original perspective.

In New York’s experimental scene, the presence of vocalist Amirtha Kidambi on a concert bill has been a consistent indicator of quality. In 2013, she impressed in a live appearance with the legendary composer and improviser Muhal Richard Abrams. At the 2014 Whitney Biennial, she was part of a youthful ensemble that gave the premiere of one of the final operas by the late visionary Robert Ashley. Until forming the group Elder Ones, though, Kidambi had yet to create a vehicle for her own compositions. 

The quartet that plays on her bandleading debut includes some familiar talents. Drummer Max Jaffe’s jabbing power has been heard in the high-complexity pop of the band JOBS. Soprano saxophonist Matt Nelson’s work has proved critical to recordings by tUnE-yArDsand Battle Trance. But Kidambi is the clear driving agent of the group.

While her mostly wordless vocal parts on Holy Science are influenced by the South Indian devotional singing groups she participated in as a child, they also call to mind her past work with composer Darius Jones. Kidambi’s simultaneous harmonium playing reflects her ongoing study of India’s Carnatic classical tradition, as well as her appreciation of modern drone music. And the feeling of free jazz—in particular, the high-intensity blast of late Coltrane—is often present here. That’s a lot of material for any composer to process usefully, but Kidambi and Elder Ones distinguish themselves by fusing these influences with a point of view all their own. With each lengthy track titled after a yuga (or “eon”) in Hindu scripture, Holy Science clearly has significant thematic ambitions. Yet Kidambi’s 64-minute suite contains lively, minute-to-minute variety, in addition to a grand overall design. 

January 3, 2017

Music Magazine Japan "Top 5 Jazz Albums"


September 16, 2016

"10 Pop and Jazz Albums (and One Festival) You Shouldn't Miss" - New York Times

by Ben Ratiliff


ELDER ONES The aggressive and sublime first album by the band Elder Ones, “Holy Science,” is a kind of gauge for how strong and flexible the scene of young musicians in New York’s improvised and experimental music world can be. At the center of it are drones and phonemes. The group’s leader, the 30-year-old composer and singer Amirtha Kidambi, holds forth behind a harmonium, the small keyboard instrument with hand-pumped bellows; it’s commonly used in bhajan, the Indian devotional-singing tradition that was central to her musical experience while growing up in a South Indian family in San Jose, Calif. For the most part, she’s singing wordlessly, improvising like a horn, using seven syllables assigned to different parts of her range. The other band members — the soprano saxophonist Matt Nelson, the bassist Brandon Lopez, the drummer Max Jaffe — strengthen and expand on her scales and melodies, improvising and following loose arrangements. The record is all about time, in the long view; it is a suite with four sections named after the yugas, or eons of cosmic time as described in Hindu mythology. 

Ms. Kidambi has formal training in Carnatic and Western classical music, too, but that’s not where her input ends. In a recent conversation about where she came from and where she’s going, she discussed the Carnatic singer Sudha Ragunathan; the free jazz of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler; Alice Coltrane’s bhajan recordings from the 1980s and ’90s; Sarah Vaughan; Black Sabbath; the 20th-century classical vanguardists Varèse and Xenakis; the experimental composer Robert Ashley, with whom she worked toward the end of his life; and Renaissance motets. The common theme through them is a sense of immediacy, or what she called intensity.

The syllables she sings, basically, are express lanes to intensity. Having struggled with writing words, she decided that they would be an impediment anyway. “The idea is that I don’t have to think about it, because that would hinder my improvising,” she explained. “I need the easiest, most direct way possible to get to a sound.” She added, “I don’t want anything to be in the way.” Northern Spy. Nov. 11. (Ben Ratliff)

The New York Times

June 23rd, 2015

"Concert Review: Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones at Roulette, June 22, 2015", by Francis Bradley

Jazz Right Now

April 16th, 2015

"Robert Ashley's CRASH opens at Roulette", by Vivien Schweitzer

                                 The New York Times

April 14th, 2014

“Still Sensing the Presence of a Departed Composer”, by Steve Smith

The New York Times

January 2014

“2013 Rewind: Columnist’s Charts”, by Philip Clark, Richard Pinnell and Daniel Spicer

The Wire

(print only without subscription)

June 12th, 2013

“Seaven Teares, Power Ballads”, by Jeff Roesgen (Highlights Feature – Seaven Teares)

Tiny Mix Tapes

September 5th, 2013

“Seaven Teares, “Meet Me” Video Premiere”, by Mr P

Tiny Mix Tapes

April 1st, 2013

“Stream: Seaven Teares, Power Ballads”, by Sjimon Gompers (Album Feature - Seaven Teares)

Impose Magazine

May 9th, 2012

“Experiments in Opera: Under Deconstruction”, by Daniel Kushner (Matthew Welch’s Borges and the Other )

Huffington Post

November 23rd, 2011

“Language and the Limits of Coherance”, by Steve Smith (That Morning Thing )

The New York Times