Delhi’s Frame/Frame Releases Debut EP
Nikhil Kaul aka Frame/Frame’s debut EP ‘Swimmers’ to be released at Blue Frog, Delhi tonight
Back in 2009, there was much talk about a band called Constellation Project. This was during the days of MySpace, and the band’s trip-hop influenced tracks made quite a dent in that community. Sadly, they disbanded in 2011 when their drummer, who was also their producer and mix engineer, moved to Bengaluru. The year 2011 also saw the brief uprise of a band called Switch Bitch that lasted, as one Nikhil Kaul puts succinctly, “for a Delhi monsoon.” Kaul, the common link between both bands, is a name you may just faintly recognize. That may change now, thanks to his new avatar, Frame/Frame, whose debut EP, Swimmers, is a surprise coming seemingly out of nowhere.
The 26-year-old electronica artist has combined genres in his debut EP, producing a sound that is glitchy, bass heavy and unique. The EP relies heavily on a mix of trip-hop, bass music and post-rock, in a compelling package, which Kaul decided to give away for free, because, “the idea was to try and get Swimmers onto as many hard disks as possible. Making it available via free download only increases the likelihood of that.”
Swimmers gives the impression of an electronica producer whose roots lie in the singer-songwriter/ rock camp. This is because Kaul, like many musicians across the country, has played in various bands in college, listening to everything from jazz to progressive rock to folk. When he eventually took up the acoustic guitar and started songwriting, is when all these various influences started cross-pollinating. “The next natural step was to start infusing a little bit of electronica into this acoustic sound. By this time, I had somehow made my way into music production and realized there was no turning back,” he says. Kid A by Radiohead, incidentally, was his gateway to electronic music. It’s not your typical dance music, but that’s exactly what Kaul as Frame/Frame is creating – not your typical dance music. “I started to enjoy a lot of bands with hints of electronic elements in their sound – Zero 7, Massive Attack, Beck etc. I think the kind of electronic music I enjoy listening to certainly has a bit of both going on – Trentemøller, Apparat, Trifonic and Ratatat,” he explains.
The EP has plenty going on too. Neatly packaged into five songs, the longest – “Feather” – runs just over four minutes. It’s a smart decision on Kaul’s part. One of the reasons listeners sit on the fence about electronic music is the combination of tempo and length. A techno track, for instance, could hit 10 minutes easily and the loops and repetitions take some getting used to. Kaul also packs a hell of a lot of sound into each tune. “Minus” serves as an introduction, reverberating with sonorous bass layered with tinkling guitars and glitch. When the bass kicks in, it’s a big drop. “Pastels” is more evenly paced and wistful with its bass. It’s the “song” of the album, with Kaul singing about a pensive kind of love. “Feathers” follows suit and it’s hard to pin it down. It starts slow and spacey and then a sort of broken glitch-hop-inspired bassline punches through unexpectedly. What’s unusual is the rippling, delicate, guitar melody he throws on top of those hooks. “Rogue” might be the weak link for us, but we still have to give Kaul props for trying to combine slow hip-hop, glitch-hop and his favorite bass into a package that germinates from an interesting idea. The title track, “Swimmers,” finishes strong. Soaring vocals, with a guitar riff that could double as a santoor, the track glides into beautiful, progressive ambient territory. There’s a surprise ending, but we won’t give it away.
“I love slow tempos and boomy hip-hop beats. A lot of the songs on the EP are a result of juxtaposing those sensibilities with a more lush post-rock kind of atmosphere with influences from all the guitar-driven music I’ve heard in my life,” he explains, adding, “My fondness for natural elements is also something that seemed to find their way into the material – whether it’s the frying pan masquerading as hi-hats in “Feather,” or the dozens of samples from the bathroom [splashing water in buckets, fast flowing taps, water drops, toothbrushes clanging on towel rings and so on] in Swimmers. I love the contrast that’s created between these ‘pretty’ elements and the fidelity of a bass line that goes deep into the sub frequencies.” We reckon he’s going to become a lot more visible when people have a listen to this EP. Something he’d be welcome to, as Kaul ends the interview with, “I’d like to think I get around, but then again Skrillex plays about 250 gigs a year so in comparison to him, I’m a hermit.”
Download/stream Swimmers here:
Frame/Frame, SundogProject and Curtain Blue perform at Blue Frog, Delhi on October 4th, 9pm onwards. Entry: Free. Event details here.