Did the London bombings of 7/7 register any kind of cultural fallout, or were the explosions swallowed up by the cacophony that is pop today? This is often the sort of question that can attend to listening to a new Nitin Sawhney album - and before anyone can mutter 'surely Bloc Party must have recorded something along those lines', let's be quite clear: 'Days of Fire', the first track on London Undersound, is certainly the most thoughtful and affecting response to the horrors of that day yet committed to CD. It sees the young MC Natty, one of several guest vocalists here, giving an account of his experiences of the attacks and also of that day two weeks later which saw the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes (Natty was on the next tube due into Stockwell station). Rather than agit-prop, the approach is personal; set against Sawhney's acoustic guitar is the refrain 'it all went slow motion .
Nitin Sawhney describes London Undersound as an album of collaboration that sets out to explore how "London's heartbeat has changed" since 9/11 and the bombings of July 2005. His collaborators range from the sculptor Antony Gormley, who provides the cover art, to a cast that includes Paul McCartney, Anoushka Shankar and Spanish stars Ojos de Brujo, providing musical influences that range from flamenco to drum'n'bass, Indian classical styles, dub and pop balladry. Remarkably, it works.
The rise of Nitin Sawhney is fully deserved. A classically trained musician with great vision, he has a back catalogue and a stack of awards that I suspect allows him the opportunity to access most of the artists he wants to work with (sculptor Antony Gormley contributed drawings for London Undersound’s artwork). This may also explain why there is only one song on the album to not feature a guest.