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Rainburn Weave in Existentialist Metaphors and Sublime Prog on Debut Album ‘Insignify’

The Bengaluru-based progressive rock band’s concept album follows a musician’s search for purpose, minus any pretentiousness

Anurag Tagat Nov 08, 2018

Bengaluru prog rock band Rainburn - Ravi Nair, Vats Iyengar, Paraj Kumar Singh, Praveen Kumar (from left). Photo: Piyush Kumar Pandey

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We’d have to agree with Bengaluru prog rock band Rainburn’s frontman Vats Iyengar when he says concept albums have “scope for massive pretense.” To make his own case now that they’ve released their debut album Insignify, Iyengar adds, “I hope the fact that I was genuine when I was writing it and when we were arranging it comes across as not so pretentious.”

The judgment that listeners make about a song is certainly inescapable for artists, especially about it’s genuineness. All this is something that concerns Iyengar, considering he’s spent many years trying to find the right story and sound for Rainburn as the principal songwriter on Insignify, which also includes Praveen Kumar on drums and Ravi Nair on bass. Iyengar says he’s definitely lived the emotions of these songs to create them. The guitarist and vocalist says about songwriting, “I wanted it to happen in an organic way, especially the last parts – ‘Within and ‘School of Atlantis’ – where the protagonist has reached some semblance of inner peace. I didn’t want to fake that. I had to go through that journey and it took time.”

After writing songs like “Merchant of Dreams” and “Elusive Light” and road-testing them in 2016, Rainburn delved into darker, heavier territory to reflect the storyline of a 24-hour journey of existential angst, purpose and clarity that a musician undergoes. Iyengar’s spoken word statement “I can feel the wait,” uttered on the intro track “The Wait” and again at the end of the closing track “School of Atlantis” signals a return to the start. “Physically, it’s a return to the situation from last night (backstage) but also, in terms of the concept, it symbolizes the circular nature of the journey of self-discovery,” Iyengar explains.

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But as much as it’s intended to be heard in one sitting, the 10-track album does have stand-out moments. There’s serpentine, hypnotic melodies on “Mirrors,” charged-up chaos on “Suicide Note” and high emotive content on “Within” and “School of Atlantis,” which features flautist Sidharth Bharadwaj. Iyengar penned a fugue as the centerpiece on Insignify, on the vocals-only track “Purpose.”

Where you might hear hints of classic prog bands like Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation and the occasional influence of Hindustani classical on Iyengar’s guitar leads, Johann Sebastian Bach – who arguably made fugues famous – is also an inspiration. On “Purpose,” Iyengar adds that his idea was to portray a downward spiral with multiple voices in one’s head. “You’re not sure which one to resolve first, because everything is bleak at that point. I realized the fugue was the best way to express it. It was definitely the most difficult thing to compose.”

With the album out now, Rainburn are setting their sights on a string of shows early next year, prepping the material with help from live guitarist Paraj Kumar Singh. Iyengar adds, “I’d want to do a tour at the end of January and February. I want to give it enough time to reach people in enough places that they turn up for the shows and it makes sense financially.”

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