Tag Archives: electronica

A Wednesday’s Mix – Five Records to Get You To The End of the Week

11 Mar

It’s the middle of the week! Top Five Records is here to break up the monotony of your depressing existence with 5 (sort-of) new songs that will hopefully tide you over until the weekend!

 

Fuck Art, Let’s Dance! – “Atlas”

Fald

 Fuck Art, Let’s Dance! bring more to the table than just a colourful name and a call-back to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. “Atlas,” FALD!’s title track from their debut album (released in mid-2014), is a gorgeous testament to the art of understatement. The Hamburg-based quartet eschew their moniker’s call-to-arms (or legs, at least) and instead have created a song that mixes Nico Cham’s half-swallowed voice with simple drum-loops, clean guitar lines and some heavenly synth sounds that urge you to sit down and quietly contemplate your life. The song’s music video takes the urge further with its sparse visuals of chinese martial artists and dragons; all the action and movement somehow leaves you standing still.

 

 

Shubh Saran – “Mission Man”

Shubh Saran

India’s jazz scene is arguably one of the most malnourished of all the already-starved non-Bollywood music scenes, despite the existence of the Mahindra Blues Festival and sporadic city-based attempts to create a culture for it. This may explain guitarist Shubh Saran’s decision to seek greener pastures at Berklee College of Music. His debut EP, however, is an emphatic underlining of why this was the right call. A Room With a View is a beautifully crafted work of smooth jazz and neo-soul, with just enough world-music to not be obnoxious. Mission Man stands out as a killer track that makes amazing use of a saxophone, creating a jazzy hook that’s coupled with just enough piano and bass to fill out and accentuate the song. Admittedly not without a few rough edges and odd phrasings, Mission Man (and indeed the entire EP) is a great way to shut critics up who lament the modern jazz scene.

 

Young Wonder – “Intergalactic”

Young Wonder

Ireland’s musical gifts to the world just don’t seem to stop coming. Young Wonder are an electronic pop due from Cork whose new single is vibrant, haunting, and all other good things associated with the word “sparkling.” “intergalactic” dreamily begins its space-bound journey right from the first screeching synth sound, guided shortly thereafter by Rachel Koeman’s reverb-laden vocals that are dripping with whatever the ethereal version of honey is. Just shy of 4 minutes long, Intergalactic makes full use of both Rachel and Ian Ring’s considerable talents before allowing you to float gently back to the round, hungry for more.

 

Pond – “Man it Feels Like Space Again”

Pond

What is the city of Perth smoking? It’s hard to imagine, but Western Australia’s capital is home to some of the most talented psychedelic bands in the world right now. Pond have not quite managed to break into the cultural parlance beyond the island nation to the extent that their contemporaries Tame Impala have, but they’ve arguably pushed the psychedelic envelope a good deal further with their single “Man It Feels Like Space Again.” It’s 8 minutes of sheer, unadulterated bizarreness; a cacophony of discordant, disjointed instruments and effects and voices that fall just short of being grating and instead end up in a surreal, blissful territory that is its own. It’s so good it’s good. The only thing more perfectly twisted is the music video: it would be unfair to describe the outlandish, almost unsettling faux-kid’s show as Kafkaesque or Dadaist because that would just be lazy writing unworthy of the lysergide-infused spectacle.

 

The Bots – “All I Really Want”

There must be an inverse relation between band-size and overdrive, because two-piece LA outfit The Bots have some of the fuzziest, grittiest, energy-driven tracks this side of the White Stripes. It’s unfair (though quite common) to make such a comparison, though; where Meg and Jack White often seemed held back, caged, brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei are unfettered and free to unleash their zeal. Their first single “All I Really Want” blazes by in two-and-a-half minutes and demands another listen, if only to keep those energy levels up. A jacked-up bass-line kicks in only to quickly segue into fuzzy guitars and Mikaiah’s deliberately-bored voice. What follows are crests and troughs of shout-singing followed by periods of short refractory, that are over all-too-quickly. The song is arguably anthemic for the milennial generation not just because of its lyrics (“Make a cup of tea/sit down and stare at the screen until I see something that relates to me/but it’s all so boring”) but with the music video: A Mac scrolling through a click-bait-titled Buzzfeed article. Literally the only time that image has made me happy.

 

 

And that’s our list! Love it? Hate it? Swept up by some third emotion we’ve failed to grasp? Leave comments below! 

 

 

Advertisements

Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Kolkata 2014 – Day 1

11 Nov

The independent music culture in Calcutta has seen a long and meandering history. A history that begins back in the 1960s – a time when The Statesman still held the respect and the readership of the Bengalis, when the Communists were yet to form their first government in the state, and yes, when Park Street was still hip.

It has since then, gone into a period of decline, remained underground for a little over three decades, before resurfacing again, just before the turn of the new millenium. Cynics have always been ready to point out that this resurgence of alternative music in Calcutta has sorely lacked the class and exclusivity that had been the essence of the audacious, non-conformist acts from the sixties and seventies. But, the fact remains that Calcutta is, and will continue to be, a stronghold of India’s vibrant indie music scene. Therefore, it isn’t a surprise that the biggest celebration of indie-music in the country, has Calcutta on its map, every year.

Enter the Bacardi Nh7 Weekender.

We’re huge fans of this festival – you’d probably know that, if you have read this blog before – and we weren’t going to miss out on this year’s edition either. And when tickets for Calcutta went on sale earlier this year, we were probably one of the earliest to get our hands on them. The months that passed till the event kicked off on the 1st of November was pretty arduous, and it was made worse by the teasers that the Nh7 Facebook page kept exciting us with.

And then suddenly, it was there.

The first thing that struck me when I reached the venue, like it had, the last time in Bangalore as well, were the absolutely stunning aesthetics. The venue had been set up beautifully – the colours, the graphics, the stages – top notch stuff. There were colourful banners, cheerful graffiti and other brilliant pieces of art strewn all over the grounds. There were weird and whacky constructions, which piqued my interest for a while, but then remained largely forgotten when the main agenda of the evening, finally took off.

DSCN0078

DSCN0087

The music. Oh my God, the music.

If you’re aware how the Nh7 Weekender works, you’d know that it has multiple arenas, where bands and solo artists perform simultaneously. Thus, it is impossible to attend every single act and watch it through till the end, unless you’re a ninja who can bend spacetime of his own volition. The idea is therefore to optimise your time at each of the arenas and chalk out a roadmap, well in advance, in order to fully enjoy the experience.

Saturday thus began with the electronic/funk duo, Madboy/Mink, atop the uber-cool Red Bull Tour Bus. As a starter, their nu disco music, which came with some pretty groovy synthesizer samples and neat guitar-work, provided the right ambience to get into the mood for the “happiest music festival”. Brownie points for Imaad Shah’s hairdo, and Saba Azad’s cuteness factor.

Madboy/Mink had scarcely been performing for half an hour, when my Weekender antennae reminded me that Blackstratblues were about to kick off on the Dewarists’ stage, and this was one act that I had no intention of missing.

I had never seen them live before, but I had had the fortune of seeing their frontman/lead guitarist, Warren Mendonsa at my previous Weekender. I was therefore, well aware of the galactic levels of skill that this one man packed behind his six strings. And I wasn’t disappointed. They began their set with their hugely popular instrumental from their 2007 album, Knights in Shining Armour – Anuva’s Sky, and then proceeded to blow a few hundred minds around the arena with their eclectic collection of blues melodies.

 

Warren Mendonsa of the Blackstratblues.

Warren Mendonsa of the Blackstratblues.

Forty five soul-stirring minutes later, we turned towards the MTS Discover stage where Ankur & The Ghalat Family were setting up for a Hindi gig, and without a second thought, I rushed off to the Tour Bus to meet my old friends, The F16s. The F16s is one band that I am quite familiar with, and while they did lack on the crowd-connection front, they made up for it, by setting a large number of heads shaking, and approximately twice the number of feet tapping with much rapidity. Amongst the songs that they played, was the wonderful “My Shallow Lover”, and the trippy “Avalanche”.

After seeing them play out atop the bus, we headed back to the Dewarists’ stage, where Soulmate, the three piece blues rock act from Shillong were going through their routine sound test. Fronted by the beautiful Tipriti Kharbangar and the clinical Rudy Walland, they played a mesmerizing blues set, topping it off, with what was unarguably the sexiest song of the evening – “If you were my guitar” – after which we rushed back to the Tour Bus and sprawled down upon the ground to give our feet a much needed respite, while Calcutta Local performed in the distance.

It was roughly 7:30 PM when we hoisted ourselves once more to plod over to The Dewarists’ stage yet again. The sun had set by then, and the stage was lit up in a shimmering shade of blue. The characteristic strumming of an acoustic guitar floated out of a dense cloud of dry ice, as the ever recognisable voice of Rupam Islam broke out in all of its grungy, acidic, melody. What followed was probably the best one hour of the whole evening.

Yes, as a Bengali who has grown up in Calcutta through the 90s and the 2000s, this wasn’t my first Fossils concert. But boy, oh boy, this is one band that I don’t think I can ever grow out of. As their cult classics rolled past, I think I lost track of time, space and everything in between. (What comes between time and space, I wonder?) An emotionally charged Rupam then hailed this as a definitive moment in the timeline of Bangla Rock, a moment when Bangla, as a language has broken through its limiting shackles and onto a cosmopolitan stage, and Bangla artists were seen as equals, alongside national and international artists of repute.

Rupam Islam of Fossils.

Rupam Islam of Fossils.

After a terrific one hour of intense Bangla Rock, we took a short break to refill ourselves and then went over to the Tour Bus to see a crooning Monica Dogra, solo. Strangely enough, her iconic mid-riff was nowhere to be seen, and even more strange, she wasn’t gyrating at all. Her gyration and mid-riff were all that I remembered from my last sighting of her at Bangalore, but this time around there was none of that. Truth be told, I wasn’t really paying much attention to what she was crooning, because it wasn’t something that excited me terribly, and because I was pretty certain that I had already seen the best of what the evening had to offer. I just sat there, because my poor feet seemed like they would revolt otherwise, and because I really needed this rest before the final two acts of the evening – which as we had guessed, and as we verified, were as far apart in styles as two dissimilar things could ever be.

On one hand, there was Bhayanak Maut, on the Bacardi arena, who are often touted as the heaviest, and the baddest musicians, in this part of the world. On the other hand, there was Amit Trivedi, the far more mellow and mainstream composer of Bollywood filmy songs. We, as gentlefolk often do, decided to focus on the latter, not because we were particularly fond of Amit Trivedi’s music, but because we had run out of steam and had no inclination to headbang and die brutal and anonymous deaths at the “happiest music festival in the country”. Therefore, after spending a short while amid the frantic growling and mosh pitting at the Bacardi arena, we decided to anchor ourselves at the Dewarists’ where we lived out the evening, till the end.

Amit Trivedi with his entourage.

Amit Trivedi with his entourage.

Bhayanak Maut

Bhayanak Maut

To cap it all off, it was a pretty awesome evening. The high points had been the Blackstratblues, The F16s, Soulmate and Fossils. The not so high points had been the entire  Micromax Mega Mix stage (which I had ventured towards, a couple of times, but had found it distasteful), and the unnecessarily crooning Monica Dogra with a non-existent mid-riff. But there had been more highs than lows, and some great highs at that. We hoped it would continue the next day, and we weren’t disappointed.

Read our Day 2 coverage here.

Words and photos by Subhayan Mukerjee (@wrahool)

Striking a Balance: A Conversation with Ketan Bahirat

3 May

As we previously mentioned, we were very impressed with electronica/ambient/post-rock band Until We Last’s recent performance at Counter Culture. New writer Anindita Nayak recently got a chance to speak to Ketan Bahirat, founder of Until We Last, about the band, his early start in music and challenges.

Until We Last

Photo courtesy Until We Last’s Facebook page.

Let’s talk a little about their music first. Until We Last songs transport your mind to different level with their unusual mix of melodies, making them sound a little like God is an Astronaut or Explosions in the Sky (though the band does dislike the comparisons sometimes). One of our favorite songs of theirs is “Water”, which sounds even better live than it does on the album. Unfortunately, their SoundCloud channel doesn’t have all of the songs they had performed at CounterCulture, but maybe we’ll find them on their upcoming EP, which is launching in a month’s time. Now, let’s move on to Until We Last’s journey.

Currently in his penultimate year of college, Ketan Bahirat took formal Hindustani lessons back in 6th grade. He picked up guitar skills from YouTube videos and played with two metal bands before forming Until We Last in 2011. Until We Last has been performing live since late 2012, culminating in the launch of an album, copies of which they were more than happy to give away free at Counter Culture. When quizzed about his personal favorite gig so far, Ketan speedily answers with Magnetic Fields, an impressive festival in the middle of the Rajasthani desert.

The name of the band stems from a philosophical note that revolves around travel, our home planet, nature and the quest to strike the perfect balance between sustainability and development. When it comes to song names, it’s usually based on circumstances. Their most popular song, “Rain”, was so named because it was raining when they were composing it! And there is, of course, a conscious decision of keeping a close reference to nature or travel.

 

The initial few compositions were recorded in Ketan’s bedroom. When looking for potential band members, he remained close to the local music artists and often jammed with them. It hasn’t been an easy ride for Until We Last, considering that the lineup has had over ten changes so far. The longest time without a lineup change was for a year, ending when the bassist, Anjan Bhojaraj, left for higher studies and was replaced by Paul Dharamraj, a former member of the Bicycle Days. This aspect is probably one of the major challenges for any band, especially when the band members are so young and other aspects will tend to take higher priorities.

However, working with so many artists has also helped Until We Last’s music evolve. One of their former band members, Bhargav, continues to send across pieces of compositions from Singapore and they are continuing to reach out to other artists who could collaborate with them to produce more music.

Photo courtesy Until We Last’s Facebook page.

One good thing that struck us about Until We Last is that they don’t seem very concerned about the prevalent culture of piracy, especially in a country like ours. Admittedly, the growing number of music festivals and venues is changing that culture in India, but the fact remains that platforms for indie artists to sell music are uncommon and finding people who are willing to buy music is even less common. Until We Last has also seen a good amount of traction from countries like Germany and Russia, where listeners are willing to pay for their music.

But in the end it’s all about sustainability: fans need to buy music to support good artists. On that note, please do listen to Until We Last’s music and maybe buy it too. And be sure to follow their updates on Facebook and Twitter too. We wish them all the success with their upcoming album!

Naturally Scattered: An Interview with Raxit Tewari

26 Feb

Scatter Nature

Raxit Tewari’s main band Sky Rabbit is something of an Indian indie legend. It started off as a metal band called Medusa that dropped six-track album way back in 2005, before transforming itself into the current electro-pop/indie avatar which won big at the JD Rock Awards this year.

Tewari’s solo side project Your Chin seems to have been born from the same ethos that caused Medusa’s alchemic transformation into Sky Rabbit. It may seem like effortless mood-music, but there is a solid groundwork of talent and aesthetic sense that supports it all.

Tewari describes his second EP, Scatter Nature, as soundtrack music for a solitary walk through a busy city, possibly his hometown of Mumbai. It’s pretty much a perfect summation: Scatter Nature made us think of strangers colliding and interacting like independent particles in this harried world.

“Run Along Now Little One” is the stand-out track on the EP. Tewari’s signature, peculiarly flat vocals describe arcane prophecies (“Laughing gas will burn us while we’re dodging tragedies”) over music that introspects, sighs and flows along with the pace of life. The accompanying video, directed by Misha Ghose and Naman Saraiya, is perhaps the perfect accompaniment. It syncs Raxit’s music with grungy tableaus of Mumbai life – a red telephone, a rusty lock, smoggy skylines – showcasing editor Sourya Sen’s skills as much as the directors’ or the artist’s.

This is not to say that the other three songs on Scatter Nature aren’t worth mentioning. “Fingerprints & Mugshots” is a deal less dreamy than but in a way more wholesome in sound. The phrasing of words and sentences on “Who Would Have Thought” is a character on its own. And the plaintive stretch of the titular words on “For Love”, layered over an electro-pop version of almost-dance music, is just pure magic. It’s also the closest to Sky Rabbit, in our opinion.

All in all, Scatter Nature is a great EP. It got us really excited about what we might hear from Your Chin in the future.

So excited, in fact, that we decided to hear from him now. To round off our review, here’s a short interview with none other than Raxit Tewari himself!

Photo credits: Anuj Prajapati

Photo credits: Anuj Prajapati

Top Five Records: Let’s start with something that we’re quite curious about. Why the chin, of all body parts?

Your Chin: It sucks when it walks out on you. Chewing is almost impossible. You’re left to ingesting with plastic pipes going straight into your esophagus. And that’s just one of the many things. It’s important to acknowledge and address it if you want to prevent all of this.

TFR: Artists often create solo projects to express ideas that might not fit in with other, non-solo acts. How does your musical process with Your Chin differ from how you go about making and publicizing music as a part of Sky Rabbit?

YC: Your Chin’s mostly about sitting in a room and writing/producing music with a computer. I have been tinkering with software for a while now and wanted to see if I could produce some worthwhile music like this.

TFR: Where does your music take inspiration from? Was there a particular artist or even a set of experiences that really guided you here?

YC: A lot of things really. All of them get sewn in. It keeps happening over time.

TFR: You’ve previously described your first EP as the sound of the city, presumably a seethingly busy one like Mumbai, moving along with you. What’s the right frame of mind for this one?

YC: This one’s more of a put-it-on-your-phones-and-go-for-a-walk-EP.

TFR: There’s a lot going on in your music – in terms of technique, texture and style. Tell us a little bit about your working process.

YC: I usually put down smaller ideas on impulse and then build on them at a later stage.

TFR: You recently opened for Gotye at the Oz Fest in Delhi. What was that experience like?

YC: Gotye has a terrific live act. Was an honour to open for someone who is so on top of his game.

TFR: Your style of music is not the most common type out there in India. What has the response been like, in gigs and festivals around the country?

YC: It’s been wonderful. Not underwhelming in anyway. It’s been very consistently progressive over the last few years.

TFR: We loved the music video for “Run Along Little One”, especially the beautiful, grungy montage of urban life. Tell us a little bit about the creative process that went into making this video.

YC: Thank you! Glad you loved it. We went out for a day and shot a whole lot of this place not far from home. Literally rediscovered it in so many ways. Found new nooks and corners. It was extremely impulsive and a lot of fun.

TFR: The last question we have for you is a pretty standard one. Who is the one artist, alive or dead, that you’d most like to work with?

YC: Brian Eno?

So there you have it. Listen to Scatter Nature below!

Passion Pit: “I’ll Be Alright”

25 Jun

Sufficiently hipster

Apparently, a passion pit is a slang term for drive-in theatres, traditionally known as old-school make-out spots for still-in-school lusty American youth. Massachusetts-based glitchy indie rock/synthpop band Passion Pit is already well known for creating the kind of atmosphere as their band name’s etymology. It’s no different on “I’ll Be Alright”, a full-bodied synthpop track that blips and pounds along much like most of their critically acclaimed Manners.  (On a side note, check out “Sleepyhead” and “To Kingdom Come”; you’ve probably heard their music already though, since most of the songs on Manners were used in some commercial or the other.)

On first listen, the music sounds exactly like an electronic version of Phoenix’s happy-go-lucky, tousled-hair, fashionably-dressed indie rock. The intro dazzles, the chorus swoons, and the bridge is funky like nobody’s business. But what you don’t immediately notice is the intensely dark lyrics, created by a passive-aggressive soul with self-esteem that’s excavating below Rock Bottom. “You should go, if you want to, yeah go if you want to/ I’ll be alright” sings Michael Angelakos, seemingly alright with yet another of his “many messes”. However, even before the verse hits the chorus, he changes his mind: “I won’t let you go unless I’ll be alright,” he croons, the anachronistically upbeat music giving his lyrics a maddened tinge. And so it goes, back and forth, for the entire song. It’s fascinating, really.

“I’ll Be Alright”, released on June 12th, is the second single off of Passion Pit’s upcoming album Gossamer.

Verdict: If you like MGMT (edible magic), Animal Collective (electronic genius) or Foster the People (cleverly-masked melancholy), give this track a listen. And then listen to Manners!

– Neeharika

%d bloggers like this: