Who would’ve expected a new album already from Eishan Ensemble? I certainly did not, especially since there was basically little to no warning about it. Just last year they released Afternoon Tea at Six, which I reviewed here, and now, the Australian band hits us up with some more of their trademark goodness. Project Masnavi is an apt follow up to Afternoon Tea at Six and although I did like Afternoon Tea at Six much more, Project Masnavi has a different kind of alluring atmosphere to it which makes it shine in its own way. It is also a good deal shorter than its predecessor, further distinguishing itself, while still retaining all the band’s qualities.
Project Masnavi as per bandleader Sadeghi’s thoughts, is heavily rooted in Rumi‘s Masnavi — something that would be immediately obvious for connoisseurs of 13th century middle eastern literature. While I am somewhat familiar with the works of Rumi, I have not been acquainted with Masnavi, so in turn I cannot offer a clear account as to whether the music does justice to the concept or otherwise. Although, I’m willing to bet, based on the compelling and authentic vibes I’m getting, that it is at least a decent transdisciplinary representation.
Further as Sadeghi explains, Rumi’s poetry was a central inspiration for the album:
‘His poetry hits you at the core, Rumi’s Masnavi is all about love and being free. A freedom we did not have during the lockdown (and still now). Our freedom is limited. Rumi’s [bold] words are simple and timeless. They can be universally understood. It is poetry for the people, not for the elite. It is accessible. It has the power to bring people together and I wish for my music to do that too.‘
I believe that this train of thought fragment is beautiful in its simplicity and aim. It strives in a straightforward way to make the art have the impact which it should rightfully have, among the plethora of its possibilities in this sense. As I see it, the music on Project Masnavi isn’t quite universally accessible, although it is clearly much more accessible than the previous records. I do agree that its emotional charge is one that would be immediately accessible — definitely for those who are receptive to this type of stylistic manifestation of music.
At first I had mixed feelings about the inclusion of the accordion on the record, it is an instrument towards which I am biased in certain ways. After a few listens, I do have to admit that it is very well integrated and it succeeds in creating a warm and nostalgic tone as it intended — being outlined very well in “Shiraz”. The noticeably shorter runtime doesn’t come with any drawbacks either, it simply meant that whatever is being relayed to us, just needed less space. Although, the metaphysical space occupied by the tunes is just as ample as its predecessors. We receive the same kind of depth and nuance, albeit in a different direction and with a much more upbeat and energetic delivery. To exemplify, this all comes together nicely in an epitomic manner throughout “Not Really”.
All in all, I wouldn’t say that Project Masnavi is a step forward when compared to its predecessor, nor do I see it as a step back. It doesn’t particularly challenge any of the established hallmarks of the band, although it doesn’t fall short on virtually any end. Of course, emphasizing on different moods is part of what keeps it engaging and makes it feel with certainty as a different affair. Similarly, the instrumentation and the richness of the layers being approached with a simple mindset ties very well with the concept and the intention behind the album.
The record flows very nicely, in a cohesive manner, being beautifully complemented by the quality of the mix and master. Thus we receive an immersive experience along with the entirety of its acoustic warmth, which is integral to the overall tonal charm. In short, Eishan Ensemble drive their unique vision forward with success. So you know, just hit play on Project Masnavi if you’re tired of this time and space and need a break.