Workers picking tealeaves disappear down to the valley floor as the northern horizon fills with a giant creamy cloud. Gazing through this vast hazy valley from Darjeeling to the north, I slowly become aware that I’m not looking at a cloud at all but the massive mountain known as Kanchendzonga.
CD review by Ian Dearden
Yellow Monday is the vehicle for Andy Gray’s singer/song-writing talents, filtered through a world music prism, propelled in particular by Ziaul Islam’s rapid fire tabla playing and Shane Flew’s assorted percussion contributions, with the bottom end provided courtesy of Craig Calhoun on bass.
Sweetening these contributions are musical offerings from Lara King on cello, Jeremy Boz on strings, John Pennings on trumpet and Ozkan Bayar on baglama (a Turkish long necked bowl lute).
Andy himself is a tasty multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, cittern, hang drum and dumbek (Arabic hand drum).
After a ten year break, this five track EP draws on influences which the band relevantly identifies as acoustic, gypsy, progressive, orchestral and eastern – a handy shorthand summary of the ingredients of their musical offering.
The opening track, ‘Should I Jump’ introduces many of the key components up front – the tabla, cello, busy fretless bass and delightfully sweet female vocal harmonies from Lara King and Lexi Rose.
‘World Through Those Eyes’ continues the template of insistent percussion rhythms, and hypnotic cello, interwoven through sweet vocal harmonies.
The title track, ‘Kanchendzonga’, is an instrumental inspired by a trip to Darjeeling in northern India, the centre of the Indian tea trade, with breathtaking views out to Kanchendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world.
Unsurprisingly, this tune is driven by the tabla playing of Ziaul Islam and the Ozkan Bayar’s baglama, and carries the listener effortlessly through those magnificent Himalayan vistas, or whichever other personal paradise you might wish to be transported to.
‘Minda Love’, on the other hand, is an introspective love song that features delicate fingerpicking and hang drum from Andy, gorgeous cello from Lara King and (in stark contrast to the rest of the album) gently drifts across your consciousness.
‘Simpatico’ ups the tempo again, with driving strummed guitar from Andy, relentless tabla playing from Ziaul Islam and some delicious trumpet from John Pennings.
And then it’s all over – leaving this reviewer, for one, keen to hear more.
Kanchendzonga is a gorgeous and delightful EP and I’m keen to hear more from Yellow Monday after such a lengthy hiatus.
You can find out more about Yellow Monday with a quick search on Facebook, and of course you can buy this EP at the Trad & Now shop or, no doubt, at the band’s gigs.
CD review by Tony Smith
This 2019 album is a neat juxtaposition of cultures.
Kanchendzonga is the third highest mountain in world and the highest in India.
Yellow Monday is, with green grocers, black princes and various drummers, a common enough variety of the cicada.
The music of the Himalayas fits very well into the playing of musicians born, bred or situated in Australia.
The band has Ziaul Islam on tabla, Lara King on cello and vocals, Craig Calhoun on bass and vocals, Lexi Rose on vocals, Shane Flew on percussion and vocals, Jeremy Boz on strings, John Pennings on trumpet, Ozkan Bayar on baglama, Andy Gray on guitars, hang drum, dumbek, vocals and cittern.
Gray was also songwriter and arranger for this album and Phil Snow was the recording engineer at Bulletin Place Studios in Sydney.
David Price-Jones drew the cicada for the cover and Steve Oatley did the ‘handwriting’.
The five tracks cover some 27 and a half minutes.
‘Should I Jump’ features some bright guitar, bass riffs and vocal harmonies and is lifted by the tabla.
The song is about decisions and their place in our lives.
‘World Through Those Eyes’ has simple enough lyrics, reminding us to broaden our views.
The cello becomes the leading instrument here.
‘Kanchendzonga’ is a soaring instrumental in which the baglama enriches the exotic flavour, especially mixing so well with the tabla.
‘Minda Love’ has cittern for variety, the cello again impresses and the vocal harmonies are uplifting.
‘Simpatico’ with tutti playing, including bright trumpet, is like an upbeat Bollywood dance finale.
The Yellow Monday like all cicadas is renowned for raucous calls.
Listeners will be pleased that Kanchendzonga’s music is much gentler than the album title might suggest.
Andy Gray’s arrangements blend the instruments and voices into pleasing harmonies.
This album shows how lucky we are in Australia to have musicians who play in styles native to India, Turkey, the Middle East and many other countries, alongside familiar western instruments such as guitar and cello.
This CD helps us aspire to a unified world through music.