It’s hard to believe that Hans Christian used to play bass with artists like Sparks, Robbie Robertson, and Victoria Williams. Even though he was a classically trained cellist, he rocked out in Los Angeles when he first arrived in America from Germany in 1992. But that’s not the Hans Christian we know. He had moved to the San Francisco Bay area when we first heard of him in 1994, when he released his debut CD, Phantoms. That recording of electro-ambient chamber music hinted at the east-west fusion he’d later create with the duo called Rasa, where he married luxurious orchestrations of sarangi, tablas, cello and electronics to singer Kim Waters’ divine Hindi chants.Christian is a master of space. He creates silken ambiences that waft around seductive loops of tabla, temple bells and shakers. With just percussion and ambiences this would be an enveloping sound, but Christian adds melodies that often alternate between instruments, like the cello and sarangi on “First Light.” As one interwoven instrument creates a melodic arc, the other picks it up in mid-flight and continues in a Mobius strip of melody.
Christian’s mix of East and West is among the most subtle and refined you’ll hear. Listen to the way an acoustic guitar forms a folk basis for the languid refrain of sarangi and cello on “My Inner Ascent.” It’s ancient music from the future, especially a track like “Between Dusk and Dawn” which takes the lap steel guitar and sends it to the other side of the world, from Nashville to Mumbai in a duet with the sitara.
Nanda Devi is a bit more subdued even by Hans Christian’s meditative standards. Tracks like “Sunanda” are steady-state mood pieces with rippling zithers and backwards chimes. On “Eternal Spring,” an organ-like synthesizer sustain underpins a ruminating solo on the Swedish keyed fiddle called the Nyckelharpa. Christian improvises a forlorn melody made even more plaintive by the clacking action of the instrument’s wooden keys. Its medieval tone sounds like a lament for the last battle at Game of Thrones’ Castle Black.