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10 Best Indian Albums of 2016

Sandunes surprises; Kryptos get psychedelic; Donn Bhat bridges sonic borders


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Sandunes_cred__jishnu-chakraborty

Sandunes. Photo: Jishnu Chakraborty

1. Sandunes: Downstream

Mumbai producer Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes’s 2016 release Downstream tests her own capacity for musical mischief. Somewhere between the delicious synths, blips, glitches and chimes on the 10-track record, you can see that Ardeshir has really learnt to take it easy. And with the kind of creatively secure music space she is in right now (carefully picked gigs, surprising collabs etc) she has no points to prove either. Except how electronically agile she is, of course.

Stream the album below: Buy it here.

 

2. Donn Bhat: Connected

Mumbai guitarist/producer Donn Bhat’s latest record is a remarkably compatible marriage between his ‘live’ and ‘electronic’ visions. Connected is as much about anticipative guitars and synths as it is about lyricism and social commentary, and in being that, it exemplifies the common saying among old-timers: that ‘a good song is good song’, to hell with genres. Bhat’s production on his third solo record is crisp and songwriting contemporary. And with help from collaborators like vocalist Toymob and sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan, he’s managed to make an album that was perhaps played on loop the most among Indian indie music-lovers this year.

Stream the album below: Buy it here.

 

3. The Bodhisattwa Trio: Heart of Darkness

It comes across at first as an overused pop culture reference to Joseph Conrad’s modern novella and its film adaptation, the cult hit Apocalypse Now!, but Kolkata experimental jazz rock band The Bodhisattwa Trio only go as far as to use a single voice sample from the Brando-starrer (the uneasy piano-led “Defeat”) on their second album. Everything else is an eerie, lo-fi sonic snapshot of what happens when a troubled (but genius) guitarist’s mind traverses murky waters of introspection.

Stream “Heart Of Darkness” below: Buy the album here.

 

4. The Circus: With Love

In seven tracks, New Delhi experimental rockers The Circus spring back in form with their third album, by when most bands have all but given up. If Bats was a frenzied, unpredictable attack, With Love is a much more studied approach to constructing a sonic bubble that keeps you engrossed throughout—from the quiet of “I Don’t Care Anymore For You” to quaking tunes like “Not Yet Dinosaurs” and “Lions and Wolves” as well as the familiarly-infectious “Discourse! Discourse!”

Stream the album below:

 

5. Kryptos: Burn Up the Night

Bengaluru’s old school metallers trade in stories about mythic beings for something much more real — the leather-clad, fistpumping ethos of the Seventies and Eighties. Sonically, Burn Up the Night places Kryptos in a space that’s as glorious as they may ever be. From the incendiary guitar lines (“Full Throttle”) from Rohit Chaturvedi that are burnt into memory and vocalist Nolan Lewis’s snarling call to carpe diem (“One Shot to Kill”), it’s not very often you’ll see someone as stubborn on their principles as Kryptos turn to psychedelic-meets-traditional heavy metal.

Stream “One Shot to Kill” below: Buy the album here.

 

6. Spud In The Box: Lead Feet Paper Shoes

The Mumbai alt rockers shook the indie music scene earlier this year with the release of their debut album Lead Feet Paper Shoes. From the immersive intro “Drown In” to the deceptively cheerful “Institute of Madness” and the powerful “Hold Your Horses Closer,” the metamorphic album oscillates from mellow to manic, courtesy a combination of powerful lyricism and the two vocalists—Ankit Dayal and Rohan Rajadhyaksha. The band—which also consists of guitarists Hartej Sawhney, Siddharth Talwar, bassist Zubin Bhathena and drummer Joshua Singh—further highlighted the story behind the album with detailed visuals and artwork by photographer Parizad D. at their live shows during their promotion tour last year.

Stream “Manic” below: Buy the album here.

 

7. Sanjay Divecha And Secret: Secret

One of India’s most prodigious guitarists, Sanjay Divecha’s album Secret combines different musical streams that sit together perfectly. The standout sound on the album is Divecha’s own wizardry on the guitar. The musician shares the rest of the space on the album with his talented musical colleagues such as vocalist Chandana Bala Kalyan, pianist Louiz Banks, horn players Shirish Malhotra and Kishor Sodha, among others.

Watch “OTA” below: Buy the album here.

 

8.The Kush Upadhyay Group: Perspective

At 19, guitarist Kush Upadhyay is already a session guitarist for some of the music circuit’s most popular names. After releasing his debut EP Songs In The Key Of EP in 2015, Upadhyay releassed Perspective in 2016. The new record furthers Upadhyay’s signature sonic blend of blues, jazz and rock. Apparently, the five-track album was recorded in a mere one-and-a-half days at Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studios.

Stream the album below: Buy it here.

 

9. What Escapes Me: Egress Point

Metal in Kolkata is seeing visible signs of recovery, and this year belonged to What Escapes Me’s arresting debut full-length. It’s not just djent, because the band navigates everything from sarangi (“Coalesce”) and tabla (“The Truth Of a Lie”) sections to gimmick-free technically astounding metal. You can tell they’ve got some early material, but they’re not afraid to share it proudly, whether it’s the metalcore-edged “Pseudo Showcase” or prog-drawing on “Maze of Mutual Apocalypse.”

Stream the album below: Buy it here.

 

10. SundogProject: Tora

New Delhi experimental/electronic act SundogProject’s sophomore offering Tora features an ethereal mix of industrial, darkwave, ambient and rock elements. From the glimmering “Bloom” to the hyper “Disk” and the ominous “Vajra,” principal songwriter Rahul Das (joined by Shardul Mehta, Akshat Taneja and Abhinav Chaudhary) presented a journey through time, space and everything in between.

Buy the album below:

(Releases are listed in no particular order)

Compiled by Nirmika Singh, Anurag Tagat, Nabeela Shaikh, Riddhi Chakraborty and David Britto

 

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  • February 18th, 2017 - February 19th, 2017 Global ISAI Festival ft Ilhaam Project, The F16s, Thakara, Masala Coffee, Ziia and the Swing Mates, Tablatronic World Peace and more in Chennai at Phoenix Market City
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  • February 19th, 2017 Rahul Guha Roy in Kolkata at Beer Republic
  • February 20th, 2017 Aditi & Kaushik in New Delhi at Piano Man Jazz Club



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