Arushi Jain, “Imagine an Orchestra” (Leaving)

As anyone who caught her 2023 set opening for the analog-synth legend Suzanne Ciani at Seattle's First Baptist Church can attest, Arushi Jain is a sublime instrumentalist/vocalist. Her renditions of Hindustani classical music realized on modular synthesizers made her fusions of ancient and modern/Eastern and Western sound like golden silk feels. Also, it's exceptionally rare for a master of minimalist composition to sing with the devotional beauty of Jain. So, we are fortunate that this NYC-based Indian artist decided to leave the tech industry to devote her time to music.

Jain's follow-up to 2021's excellent Under the Lilac Sky, Delight (out March 29), delicately dips the listener in yet more pools of sonic tranquility. She uses her mellifluous voice as a gorgeous mirage shimmering in the middle distance, almost too blissful to be real—at least to Western ears ignorant of her source material.

Inspired by Raga Bageshri's hopefully yearning tone, Delight's nine tracks blend into one another with serene inevitability, enveloping you in sea-green waves and ripples of synth and misting you with lushly layered vocals. Jain has fruitfully expanded her aural palette to include cello, classical guitar, marimba, flute, and saxophone. (I'd never noticed this before, but I hear some similarities in Jain's music with Sheila Chandra's transportive drone- and chant-based works Quiet! [1984] and ABoneCroneDrone [1996].) One outlier from Delight is "You Are Irresistible," which introduces briskly galloping techno beats to Jain's ambient synth swirls and angelic singing. 

The album's first single, "Imagine an Orchestra," also features beats—albeit rugged, irregular ones, which is unusual for Jain. Over this skewed rhythm, she finesses one of her most complex and intriguing synth figures, with a flute motif that snakes and soars to heart-swallowing heights. I heard Delight, I saw the light.

Bruno Pronsato, “The Cast Crowds the Curtain” (Foom)

In the mid-'00s, Bruno Pronsato (aka Steven Ford) tried to launch his techno career in Seattle, but for unfathomable reasons, not many folks around here—and around the US, in general—were receptive to his timbrally unorthodox, non-grid-like bangers. So Pronsato did what many other savvy American techno producers did—he moved to Berlin, and BOOM, his stock quickly skyrocketed.

Bruno's gone on to perform at Montréal's MUTEK and Detroit's Movement festivals, play to large crowds on several continents, release records on many prestigious labels, and collaborate with fellow techno titans Sammy Dee, Thomas Melchior, and Dario Zenker, among others. Oh, and he produced a superb album (Keith's Salon) with Ultramagnetic MCs/Dr. Octagon rapper Kool Keith under the handle Triple Parked, with studio partner Benjamin Jay. There have also been post-punk and electro-pop diversions in Pronsato's last decade of prolific activity. Not bad for a guy who started his musical career as a drummer for Texas hardcore band Voice of Reason.

Now, 21 years into his electronic-music journey, Pronsato has dropped one of his most interesting and introspective full-lengths, Rare Normal (out May 3). Yes, it's techno, but it's the least dance-oriented Pronsato release; rather, he's concocted an interiorized sound world in which metallic percussion accents, smeared vibraphones, smudged bass daubs, muted kick drums, and disembodied vocal snippets haunt and puzzle in equal measure.

The music on Rare Normal has more in common with Eric Dolphy's avant-jazz masterpiece Out to Lunch! (a Pronsato favorite) than with anything moving asses around Europe's hottest clubs. The alienated dub of "No Chairs No Dancing" and slow-motion techno concrète of "Cops Are Weird" might be the epitome of this oblique approach. 

Whereas most techno—even the experimental strains—hits like sledgehammers, "The Cast Crowds the Curtain" creeps in on cat's paws, and proceeds to stealthily pad around the velvet-walled room with mischievous intent. The track's a lightly bubbling cauldron of oddly tuned metal percussion (though it's not indebted to gamelan), muted, clap-enhanced beats, and atonal slashes of piano and synth. Heard on quality headphones or on a big sound system, "The Cast Crowds the Curtain" will subtly subvert your tenuous grip on reality. It's a subdued revolution in the usually boisterous world of techno.