Album of the Day: Ami Dang, “Parted Plains”

As a Sikh-American musician born and raised in Baltimore, Ami Dang has become extremely adept at fusing two seemingly disparate worlds in her music. Her songs take their rhythms and complex melodies from ancient Indian classical music, as well as Punjabi and Bollywood popular music, and combine them with elements of ‘80s and ‘90s electronic music. A talented sitar player, Dang showcased her pop chops on 2016’s Uni Sun, where she mixed traditional Sikh ragas with hip-hop beats, ambient synths, sitar chord progressions, and her distinct voice—she sang in two languages, Punjabi and English. On her newest album, Parted Plains, Dang goes quiet and lets her instruments speak for her, creating emotional and tense compositions that draw inspiration from the four tragic romances of the Punjab tradition—Sohni Mahiwal, Sassi Punnun, Heer Ranjha, and Mirza Sahiba—as well as other Indian folktales.

On Parted Plains, Dang creates a dreamscape full of overpowering and beautiful sitar melodies, underscored by subtle, poignant synth lines that can evoke both soothing peace and dangerous tension. An example of this appears in the album’s first two songs, “Raiments” and “Bopoluchi.” The first composition contains beautiful and almost happily nostalgic sounding sitar chords, paired with synth lines that recall ambient heavyweight Ulrich Schnauss and techno fave Roman Flügel. “Bopoluchi” feels like a warning sign: With heavy bass synths a la John Carpenter, sparse melody, and constant repetition, the song feels designed to interrupt the album opener’s dream, intruding instead with dark reality. That tension between ethereality and the darkness turns up throughout the record. “Make Enquiry” is a frenetic, psych-ambient track that could easily soundtrack the climax of a thriller; “Sohni” morphs from a tense sitar melody into a spiritual, almost trance-like exploration. With Parted Plains, Dang has created an intense, deeply moving album that journeys between distinct worlds. By exploring Sikh and Punjab melodies and instruments, and blending them with Western pop and ambient, she’s created an album that stands alone—a canvas for a story that is still yet to be written.

-Amaya Garcia

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