<$5 @ Amazon, Ebay, Half
Snow On Venus
$15 @ CD Baby, artists homepage
Today's recommendations are inexpensive, obscure, and essential.
I stumbled across 2 tracks from Bhakta's 'Open Transmission' while doing some "research" on Usenet. They immediately sparked my interest and I ordered the CD. It is a hybrid of modern electronics and traditional Eastern rhythms, instruments, and vocals. As many of my recommendations this is not interesting in itself, but the execution is so skillful and organic that it never becomes repetitive or monotonous. It has the dynamic passion of performance rather than the cut/paste feel of short samples. A broad spectrum of styles are deployed: Some danceable global-trance, dub, chill, drum and bass... Very fun.
'Snow On Venus' was my next Bhakta purchase. It was a bit expensive at the major online outlets, but my search eventually unearthed one of my now favorite independent online shops, CD Baby. 'Snow On Venus' was a surprising contrast to 'Open Transmission'. It is completely ambient and electronics play a subdued role. Most tracks are solos, primarily using Eastern instruments, accompanied by subtle electronic atmospheres. What this album captures and recreates is the sound of magic quietly occurring. It has the feel of looking down on the city from a rooftop at 3am. Traffic lights cycle patiently over abandon streets. Machines are quiet. The mutual oblivion of those that sleep creates a calm energy only a few of the conscious feel.
I like Bhakta's other releases as well, but they will have to grow on me a bit more before I can recommend them as essential. YMMV.