The simultaneous release of four such portentously titled discs is an act of artistic overkill that can’t but make the average pre-listener hope Foti’s turned his garage into some kind of open gate to a world of trans-human, post-Kobaian prog-rock mythology. Sadly, the epic sprawl of his work ultimately seems to reflect a lack of direction more than any sustaining vision.
There’s no doubt that Foti’s talented, and the two discs of brisk world-fusion instrumentals, Sphere Of Influence and Orbis Terrarum, give him plenty of room to display his chops. Each piece fairly bristles with explosive solos on acoustic guitar, keyboards and (most especially) electric bass. But the grooves that support them are propelled almost exclusively by uninspired synthetic percussion, with the dials set to “Flamenco,” “Afro-beat,” “Salsa” and the like. The programmed beats (and the fact that Foti plays every instrument on almost every track) give the music a compressed, airless quality, and with little space to grow, it all too often flashes and buzzes for a moment or two before dribbling away unceremoniously in a pool of unfocused cocktail piano sauce. Bhavachakra and Vedic Mantras are more successful, with Foti trading the busy musicianship of Sphere and Orbis for lush ethno-ambient atmospheres. Bhavachakra offers introspective raga-rock, moody Harold Budd-like piano nodules, simple sitar and tabla workouts, and swelling synth choruses, all drenched in humid reverb.
Vedic Mantras is even better--Foti centers each track around the elegantly ecstatic chanting of guest vocalist Sri Srasty, who sings mantras from the Tattira Upanishad. This album has a sense of focus that the others are missing. With Srasty’s vocals suspended in a variety of roiling synthetic cloud banks, each piece moves effortlessly into the next, putting your brain right where you want it to be, in the middle of a dark, slow-moving river.