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Glass Beams 

(Ninja Tune Records, 2024)


Review by John Siddique


There is a quiet phenomenon rippling through the music world at the moment, seemingly meeting some of the necessities of these times, and its name is Glass Beams. Their new EP Mahal is one of those records that will have you asking in the music store, ‘What the heck is this?’ in amazement – and that’s it, you’ve been got. This EP is a sinuous melding of desert guitar and funk/Indian/trip-hop rhythms, which looks both backwards to Indian film and pop music of the early 80s – think Charanjit Singh’s openness and hints of the possibility of a properly mixed culture that forward thinking/feeling people of my generation only have a tiny dream of and no hope in yet. 

The music on this EP is a captivating journey, reminiscent of a direction Hawkwind could have taken in a parallel universe in 1977 during their Hassan I Sabbah phase. It draws you in with its simple riffs and beats, weaving like a psychedelic snake having a mushroom party in the borderlands of the Punjab or Rajasthan. The guitar’s phasing quality, the wordless minimalist vocals, the 1960s bass tone and the impeccable groove all contribute to the mesmerizing effect.

At just over 18 minutes, this EP’s brevity leaves the listener craving more. A quick search reveals they only have one other EP, which is three years old. The band wear glass beaded masks, adding to the Indra’s net of their mystery. They seem to have emerged fully formed, their phenomenon attracting a large following, with only two EPs and a handful of live dates under their serpent belts. The anticipation for more is palpable.

As you read about them, you will often find them compared to the Texan musical trio Khruangbin; Glass Beams, too, are a three-piece band with similar instrumentation, and they certainly seem to share the same reverb pedal and compression settings on their mixes. But for all that, the Glass Beams hit in a deeper way – a music we’ve been waiting for but didn’t know we were.

Mahal has five tracks, the first, ‘Horizon’, is a scene-setting few seconds of rippling guitar before the title track comes in with marvellous drums and hypnotic guitar. This is the hook track; everything written above is encapsulated in this one piece. It is followed by ‘Orb’, which really brings out the Hawkwind playing the theme tune of a 1975 cop-show funk vibe (you’ll have to trust me on this, but it’s definitely a thing), which leads you crazily deeper until it fades to noise, and ‘Snake Oil’ emerges in bending sitar sounds. We close out with ‘Black Sand’, where Mu-Tron guitar dances, gives way and reconnects expansively over the earth of bass and drum. 

The only danger for this group is that if they are not careful, they could end up in that bourgeois Buddha Bar / Moon Safari / Western World Music dinner party space, which would be a great shame. Still, given their firework-like bursting into the moment and the reception they’ve had, one can only hope that they and their listeners are more tenacious and present than that.