Sufayed (Alif): Listening to Sufayed filled me with regret. I have spent too little time knowing my own country, in particular the rich linguistic tapestry that is Kashmiri and Urdu. Alif’s music is lush, evocative of what may seem like utterly relatable agonies. The Kashmir-born Muhammad Muneem’s voice is capable of various avatars: a poet, a rapper, a vocalist awash in the ecstasy of his own art. He allures the listener into dread and joy and bewilderment with unassuming ease. I doubt that I possess the understanding of human sentiment that would justify analysing something as earnest as Malaal Kya Huwa.
Shartiya weaves melodic strands of ominous dread, leveraging the power of Muneem’s confessional elocution. Rupiya and Log Kya Kahenge are treatises on the absurdity of a global population that has replaced money for joy and social validation for self-worth. I am positive that my ignorance of Urdu and Kashmiri has prevented me from adequately appreciating Roumut Diwanaei and Shoshe Ka Chashma, but their capability to represent the auspices of human despair is not lost on me. A single line from Chal Chala Main Aur Tu “meri khamoshi mera jawaab ban gaya” encapsulates this band’s power to convert anguish into masterpiece.
Alif is exquisite. It is real, terrifyingly so. Approach it with apprehension, for it may bring you tears and aching epiphanies.
Perfect Lies (Abhishek Gopurathinkal): The thing about Perfect Lies is that when it gets to the 1 minute mark, it begins to remind you of Pink Floyd. No, I am not establishing an equivalency. I am just saying that it is obvious that Abhishek tunes his instrumental experimentation in the same direction. The track is deliciously surprising in its progression. It carries an ominous drift, but is entirely conducive to a state of thoughtful mind. Lovers of the likes of Tame Impala and Bi Kyo Ran (anyone listen to that anymore?) will be glad that someone from India is trying to represent strange, curious alternate states of mind in the confines of uncanny melody.
Gangsta TV (The Fanculos): I distinctly remember that when Gangsta TV came on, I was sipping tea. The tea caught in my throat because I had to ask (and choke a bit) “Oh, what is this magic?” The last time that happened to me, it was Parvaaz’s Marika that came on. This Mumbai based band plays Ska, a genre that was born when Caribbean calypso met American jazz, rhythm and blues, and had a baby. The Fanculos fit themselves effortlessly into the history of this delectable sounding genre. Their music is shaped on crisp, addictive beats that easily ricochet into jazz rock territory. I am talking about three infinitely energetic tracks that make for exceptionally good listening when you need to wake up (and not hate the world) or need a little pick-me-up between client meetings (or something equally boring).
Vocalist Ramon Ibrahim has this larger than life, old-time-hype-man inflection that works extremely well in our time of minimal, Alt-J-loving, soft rock dominated playlists. Instead of keeping up with the heady, rushing rhythms, he leads it. The eponymous track, which emerged out of a Breaking Bad marathon, makes several points about our slavish adoration of bad TV. It does so to the tune of some mouth-watering, lust and almost arousing strings and tenor sax by Ryan Sadri (who should do this more often). The sax shows up solo in each song, and does not disappoint. Nothing To Say ruminates on the absurdity of corruption that average Joes must swallow to get through every single day. Again, Ibrahim’s voice is perfectly suited to direct a sardonic, cynical laughter to how bad things can get. These guys make satire sound pretty good, which means that even while you are raging at the lyrics, you’ll be entertained. The Fabulous Fanculos paints a musical picture of freakshow performers in a sordid tent somewhere in a 1954 winter. The lyricism and part-bop, part-grimace soundtrack has been perfectly crafted, bringing to memory Tod Browning’s 1932 teeth clenching masterpiece, Freaks or even 1993’s weirdo freak farm in Freaked. The music would feel familiar to anyone who might have watched circus-based horror or likes Diablo Swing Orchestra (The Fanculos aren’t as good, but will probably get there).
In conclusion, buy and/or stream their EP.
Umeed (The Overseas Project): So, here’s the thing. Umeed is…nice. The songs are decently written, well produced and clearly effort was not spared in putting the EP together. However, none of it truly stands out. Everything sounds like its been done before. There is no perceptible flaw, but neither is there exhilaration. The songs are pleasing, but do not inspire awe.
The point of Umeed is obvious. Hope, renewal, progress. It has been created with noble intent, and the songs would probably do better fit in better with a film. A larger context might offer greater relevance. Unfortunately, they do not really excel in 3 or 4 minute music videos, most of which are littered with cliches. It is entirely possible that I am missing the point, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from checking them out on Youtube. But I’m not sold. Not just yet, at least.
Synapses at Work (Layer Music Project): The point of EDM is to get people to dance. Chaitanya Bulusu has no problem with that. His one-man project is real good with the hooks, the beats, the loops and those unpredictable rushes of alternate sounds which keeps you from getting bored.
But for someone like me who doesn’t dance except when…well, never, Layer Music Project doesn’t come empty handed either. State of Ganapati sprinkles devotional chants amidst techno and gets away with it. Optical Armour does something similar with a few brushes of a classically bent voice. Code of Enigma refers to genius cryptographer and mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Nazis’ notoriously obtuse Enigma code and helped the Allies win. I’m not entirely sure this track represents his neural impulses, but it is skilfully made and again, supremely helpful for some tipsy dancing. Ghost Train of Zanetti references an unsubstantiated story about some Italian train that disappears into a tunnel, though that seems to have very little to do with the actual song. Its not ominous or indicative of any mystery. The song does have the potential to turn creepy, thanks to those muted, split-second moans that underlie the upbeat primaries. But it doesn’t actually go there.
Layer keeps the sounds simple without becoming monotonous, and there can be no questions about the clarity or production. He is clearly trying to tell stories with his sound, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do with EDM. For a fan of the genre, he is an eager addition to the playlist. For a non-fan, its not that bad either.
Let me begin this with a resounding recommendation. Trash Talk is voraciously engaging. The makers like to call it experimental metal, and even though they might not be doing anything entirely new, they are following the beaten path in entirely novel ways. With both Junkie See Junkie Do and Faceless in the Masquerade, you don’t have a minute of monotony. The heaviness of sound is offset with its fluid movement from riff to hook to jump to a second, equally exciting riff. The progression is clearly defined, and easily unpredictable. There is little time to recover from the excellence of one musical moment before venturing into the next.
These album reviews were featured in our December 2017 issue: http://bit.ly/2BPqfVE