Northern Eye (Mixtaped Monk):
I remember reviewing this man͛s last EP. I remember being fairly impressed, which is why I was wary of his new release. No one likes to be disappointed, especially by an indie artist. It is hard enough for independently driven circles to gain credibility as it is. I had very little to worry about. Arka Sengupta did well. His music is the kind often termed ͚ambient͛, which is about as vague as it gets. The label is not entirely inappropriate as his work focuses on influencing the listener͛s sensual atmosphere. Mixtaped Monk crafts sound to engage his listener deliberately. He draws relevance from a multitude of
stories, in this case, mythological accounts emerging from various cultures.
To express a tale instrumentally can be misguided. Without lyrics, there is always the possibility of radically personal interpretation. While this can be fun, it can also be fatal for the artist͛s intention. If one views good art as authentic self-expression, this phenomenon comes dangerous close to defeating the purpose.
In this case, I am not entirely sure if the artist͛s point got through. What I can vouch for is that the music is more compelling than the genre gets credit for. Every track courts your attention, and regards it with ease. Precision is celebrated, but enough space is made for unstructured joyriding.
Multiple replays are called for, and could easily serve as background to some interesting cinematic experiences.
Sabar (Shadow and Light):
I shall start off with the absolute obvious. Pavithra Chari and Anindo Bose do good work. Its hard to find them engaging in amateurish drivel (and I’ve had a fair bit of that this month). As their debut album demonstrates, their melodic games are definitively delightful.
With Shadow and Light, there is no cause for disappointment. The album is a playground for variation – between genres, styles, languages, thematic focus and all else. Chari’s classical training is blatant in the way her voice careens through a plethora of diverse instrumental arrangements. She is effortlessly at home with every track, epitomizing flexibility, and most importantly, fun. You can
almost see the elation in her eyes as she croons.
Sabar is purposely experimental, deliciously structured with influences ranging from jazz to
electronica to classic Hindustani classical overtures. You will struggle to pick a favourite, as the range for comparison does not exist. Despite fundamental similarities, every song is determined to offer a different side of the emotional spectrum. ‘Dhadkan’ celebrates the untiring endurance of hope, ‘Kahaani’ exemplifies the void that accompanies a serious loss, ‘Dilruba’ comes in with a mix of
bitterness and adoration towards love – an old story crafted with delectable novelty. ‘Patjhad’
concocts the most identifiable fusion between electronica and classical inclinations without being too insistent on the ‘fusion’ aspect of it all.
It struck me that the songs came out so well because the artists focused on the only thing that gives art any significance whatsoever – self-expression. The songs are personal chronicles, even if they did not emerge from personal experience. There is confessional quality that invites the listener into interaction. The listener is given an opportunity to explore their own reactions to the music and lyrics. Like all good music, the songs ask to be ruminated on. The intention is for the listener to enjoy the sound, and find what engaging with the sound reveals about their own selves.
Shorelines (A Passing Glimpse):
This New Delhi-based band is studio-only, which means you won͛t be seeing them live anytime. Would you be missing out? I͛m not entirely sure.
Their debut EP is an exercise in pleasantry. True to mainstream conceptions of ͚indie͛, the songs are primarily built on acoustic foundations. Charm is the dominating aesthetic. The songs are easy to follow, and do not make demands upon the listener’s intellect. You may be assured that they can be listened to without deliberate attention. Feel free to play them if you enjoy having a soundtrack to your thoughts.
I cannot say that I was floored by any part of the EP. There is nothing wrong with any of them. Each plays perfectly ways, and can be an excellent accompaniment to wine and Sunday company. If that was the purpose of the band, they have accomplished it without a hitch.
I enjoyed “New York”, particularly because I have always enjoyed art that explores the plight of the lost and forlorn (also because I love Sinatra). The disillusionment that accompanies idealisation of anything (in this case, the city or rather the image of the city) is adeptly expressed. One can relate to the melodic complaints of the exhausted dreamer.
There is nothing in the EP that would qualify as bad music. Its clear that the band had put in
significant effort with each piece. However, you will have trouble finding something that impels you to a moment of personal revelation, or even awe. What they sing of may seem familiar, in fact, a bit too familiar. Often, it plunges into the realm of the ‘generic’. If inward-gazing, semi-wistful truths are your thing, you will be better off delving into the work of Prateek Kuhad and the like.
Nonetheless, I can only hope that A Passing Glimpse played it safe, and that their subsequent creations will reveal a taste for pushing some limits.