Thursday, May 15, 2008

D.I. Go Pop

So I'm making sambar and it's not going well. I have a dozen recipes, and I'm following all of them and none. So it doesn't taste like sambar. Mrs Zen likes it, but I'm disappointed. I wanted that taste that all Indian cooks successfully achieve. I don't know what they're doing, and I can't do it.

I even went to the trouble of buying curry leaves, fenugreek and mustard seeds, although I couldn't find sambar powder and used a garam masala that looked close enough instead. Maybe that was the problem. I don't know. Maybe next time I'll follow just one recipe.

Yeah maybe. But usually I can go by feel. It's my greatest skill in cooking. I can follow a flavour trail, and I generally know what's missing, what there's not enough of, what there's too much of. But here I'm all at sea.

But if you never try the unknown...

Well, what? I don't know why I've always despised the familiar. It's just something in me, restless and unsatisfiable. I'm not claiming it's a good thing, although I hold out hope that it makes me more interesting than I'd otherwise be.

I have been listening to Disco Inferno a fair bit the past couple of days, and expect to continue to listen to them for some time. Their music is fascinating. They did one album of fairly dour, Joy Divisionesque, bass-driven stuff, which showed some acquaintance with a decent melody, then they set sail for wubble wu tee eff with a wet sail. This was in the mid 1980s, when samplers were the new thing, and like many other bands, they embraced them. But unlike the Pop Will Eat Themselves of this world, they did not clumsily tack on sampled sounds and basically make rawk. They hooked all their instruments up to samplers and made a kind of music that was a million lightyears away from PWEI or anything else of the time.

Their story is somewhat similar to that of Talk Talk. They were a generic band who somehow threw off the shackles of their genre, and became something profoundly different. D.I. Go Pop is a wildly inventive, wild album, with layers of dripping water, birdsong, chanting, animal sounds, cars, and a million other things you can't easily pin down.

It makes a sambar: a mysterious gravy of sound that is tasty and exotic.

Sigh. I suppose you have to keep on reaching for it, and I'll try again.


At 8:59 am, Anonymous Grapes 2.0 said...

Dude you're missing asafoetida. Its absence rings like a bell.

I wish there were some way I could fix your musical problems as easily. I thought when I heard you were listening to Disco Inferno that you'd turned the corner -- it is without a doubt the most popular song ever written -- but you veered off course and let me down.

Still, let's not get into that. Asa foetida, some people prefer two words. That'll sort you out.

At 9:02 am, Anonymous Dr Zen said...

I'm missing something because what I ate wasn't even close to sambar. I'm thankful to the correspondent who noted the absence of chana dal, which may also be more important than I'd considered.

I'm a big fan of Disco inferno, the song, too. I have a sneaking regard for disco, but I'm not sure how much of it is an outcome of a mancrush on John Travolta.


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