Inside Paradigm Shift’s Labored New Album ‘Sammukh’
The Mumbai prog/fusion band roped in Bruce Soord and Steve Kitch from British prog veterans The Pineapple Thief to mix and master their latest offering
Movie studio execs and filmmakers might have an ulterior motive when they begin pitching prequels, but Mumbai prog/fusion band Paradigm Shift just found it natural to turn the clock back.
Vocalist Kaushik Ramachandran says they were leaning more towards a precursor to their 2012 concept album Coalescence because of “Sammukh,” a track that was composed right after their debut release. Ramachandran says, “When I composed it, it hit me that it’s very sonically close to ‘Khwabon Mein Teri’ [the first track on Coalescence.]”
But this was 2012, when the band had just begun promoting Coalescence and building on the recognition they were getting for their Carnatic violin-meets-prog sound and not to forget, that evocative rendition of A.R. Rahman’s song “Roja” from the 1992 film of the same name. One catalyst that arrived by 2015 was Ramachandran and bassist-producer Ariel Samson’s brainchild Benchmark Studios in Thane. The first single “Banjaara,” arrived in early 2016.
Ramachandran says, “We took our own sweet time, because it was our own studio. But we had a schedule, but we made sure every instrumentalist had their own space to explore their sound.” In late 2016, they began production and recording what became a 10-track, hour-long sonic experience that continued their cinematic, evocative Hindustani Classical-influenced modern prog sound but added a level of finesse and layered songwriting that builds steadily through the course of the album. From the descent into the deranged on “Banjaara” and the slow-burn Meshuggah-esque “Saransh” (featuring growls from doom/death metal band Primitiv’s frontman Nitin Rajan) to the chaos of “Azaadi” and the emotionally charged “Bekhabar,” Paradigm Shift throw enough curveballs to keep listeners hooked.
Thematically, there’s a grand-scale narrative that matches the riffs of Desikan Gopalan and Chinmay Agharkar, violinist-producer Ajay Jayanthi and drummer Aamir Ismail Shaikh. Sammukh is about finding one’s way out of denial, towards acceptance of one’s problems and getting on the path to salvation. Ramachandran adds, “The lyrics aren’t preachy, but more open to interpretation. You can imagine you’re singing to your girlfriend, parents, relatives or even god. You can have multiple interpretations. Not everyone is going to invest their time in the concept, they might not get into the full album, but only a few songs, so I’ve written the lyrics in such an open-ended way.”
A major part of the sonic finetuning of Sammukh is, according to the band, thanks to the involvement of not just guitarist-producer Vishal J. Singh but also of mixing and mastering engineers Steve Kitch and Bruce Soord, both part of U.K.’s seasoned prog band The Pineapple Thief. Ramachandran says, “The way they nailed the mixes and went out of their way to understand our sensibilities and what we wanted and give their inputs as well, was unbelievable.” When “Banjaara” was sent for mix and master, Kitch informed the band that Soord had listened in to the song and wanted to work on it. “I thought, ‘Are you serious?’ And he mentioned it was for the same cost. I’m like, ‘Wow, Sone pe Suhaaga hogaya’ [icing on the cake.]”
With a special set (including dancers interpreting Sammukh) coming up at gig series Epic Shor on October 6th in Mumbai, Ramachandran says there’s a few violin and guitar playthrough videos coming up and an A Cappella rendition of one of the songs. The idea, the band says, is to keep pushing into new territory, just like they’ve done with their album. “Every song [on the album] was like that. We were like, ‘We haven’t done anything like this before’,” the vocalist says.
Paradigm Shift performs at Epic Shor alongside Daira and Blakc on October 6th at Razzberry Rhinoceros, Mumbai. Entry: free.