With the album ‘In Other Words’, Anhad+Tanner have come up with
something that happens only once in a while – something majestic
and one of a kind. This album is the perfect mixture of the traditional
and the modern with no individual style taking up the other’s space.
As one can guess, Anhad+Tanner is a duo made up of electronic producer Anhad Khanna from New Delhi and Tanner Willeford, who hails from Durham in North Carolina, USA. They met four years back while teaching for the non-profit project Music Basti.
Last month, they released their debut album ‘In Other Words’. However, going by how it sounds, one can never guess that this is their first attempt. Except for one track, they roped in five guest vocalists and a flautist.
In this harmonic co-existence of two worlds, the album opener ‘Jiya II’ sets the tone for the entire 30 minute record. Soothing, transcendental and spacey, it stops short only at making the listener float into space. Isheeta Chakrvarty, an extremely talented singer based in Mumbai, takes the reigns of the gradually building music, and delivers punches with extended classical vocal throws which brings on goose bumps.
The heart aches along with her vibrating voice while the music drops down, builds up and scatters like stars along the galaxy to end in a sudden drop. ‘Haari’ has the spacey element but brings it down several notches to the earth with the help of an Indian flute.
The sound invokes the feeling of the soil, yet the translucent voice of Pavitra Chari gives the illusion of floating. Her singing feels like heavy breathing on one’s neck as she questions the broodiness of her lover and the defeat that hangs like a cloak in the air. At the end, the music takes a fervid turn with a tabla spicing it up, while a guitar plays ambient fillers over the flute.
This earthy essence carries over into ‘Gum’ or quietness. While this track may seem quiet overall, it is alive with so many musical elements that it’s mind-boggling. A rapid criss-crossing electronic beat mixes up with the tabla’s pattering to wind down into echoing riffs of an electric guitar. Kamakshi Khanna’s vocals are nearly wordless as they blend into the rapidly changing soundscapes.
However, Vibhor Mathur’s flute playing is the king in this song and it
tells a tale of its own which cannot be surpassed by any other instrument, except perhaps the entire song as a whole. The first song to feature the magical twangs of the sitar is ‘Coming Home’. It is different from the other songs as three separate instruments take the lead at different points in the song. The sitar is the most prominent star, moving like a river where a tabla joins up to meander along the course. Then it jumps into a soothing piano solo which passes the baton to an equally peaceful electric guitar.
And through all of this, Akansha Grover’s voice and a driving electronic
sound base paint the entire sound spectrum with a vivid palette of colours which are imaginative and believable at the same time. ‘Asheville’ is perhaps the strangest track out of all seven songs. It is also the only track where the guitar plays the predominant role by creating musical beds for everything else to take place. The vocals helm a middle Eastern vibe which feels like a desert storm blowing overhead.
The only track to not feature a guest artiste, the latter half of the song takes a rather surprising turn towards a purely traditional sound through a sitar along with jazz style background music, while cutting-edge scratching sounds of an old school DJ graze along on the peripheries to create a strange yet heady mix. The most powerful track on the album is undoubtedly ‘Naina’. It starts with a tabla pattering and pounding away.
A piano raises its head along with shadowy female vocals which seem like a trick of the ears. When the sitar finally grabs the central vein to give form to the song, a sombre mood has been created which distorts and warps into other worlds. The sitar works up a furore which is breath-taking and fear-invoking at the same time. Isheeta Chakrvarty delivers alternate realities once again, casting dark spells with her bewitching voice which arouses heart-wrenching emotions which probe at the back of the subconscious.
Delhi based singer-songwriter Saptak Chatterjee reminisces about carefree days on the only track featuring a male vocalist – ‘Childhood’. In a nutshell, it says that childhood has been left behind and we cannot find it irrespective of how much we look for it.
However, it is not a pessimistic outlook. Rather, the innocent wonders of a child’s mind is celebrated with the fanciful flights that the flute takes over the strum of an acoustic guitar. The album ender turns out to be the happiest track of the album and leaves the listeners with a warm afterglow which will make them come back for more.
This album has all the hallmarks of becoming one of the most sought after releases this year. Throughout its length, it is captivating, interesting and humane at the same time. It feels like it has flesh and blood, unlike other out-of-the-world albums that one comes across in today’s computer made music.
‘In Other Words’ has soul, crafted by two brilliant young minds who not only understand the pulse of what is popular in the world today, but have the ability to pursue off-beaten sounds with honest exploration. The proper way to savour this stellar album is to turn off the lights, take a glass of wine and settle down in one’s favourite corner to dance away in celestial sonic waves.
Verdict: Turn off the light and float along to the music.