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Skinny Alley Guitarist Amyt Datta Launches Solo Project

Kolkata band’s drummer Jivraj Singh is also part of the Amyt Datta Project

Shamik Bag May 25, 2012
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Amyt Datta and Jivraj Singh. Photo: Margub Ali

Exactly a year ago, Skinny Alley guitarist Amyt Datta had kicked off his first side project alongwith the band’s drummer Jivraj Singh. Titled Fractal, the experimental electronica jazz project was launched with a few gigs in Kolkata and Delhi. Now, Datta readies his self-titled solo project and also plans to release his first solo guitar album Ambience De Dance with Singh on the drums.

The album, says Datta, is a culmination of the experiences collected over the 34-odd years he has been a professional musician inIndia. Based wholly out of Kolkata, the musical ground covered by him with the many bands that he has performed with till date – his first stage presence way back in 1978 with percussionist-brother Monojit Datta in the genre-explanatory New Blues Connection, the popular pop-rock covers act Shiva, the early-Nineties culture-blended outfit with Monojit, D for Brother, and in recent times the Skinny Alley and PINKNOISE, Singh being a colleague in the last two bands.

“There is a lot of dissonance in the music of Ambience De Dance,” Datta explains. “People often think of music in sugary terms, butterflies and flowers, but here the music in many parts is ugly, dark and jarring. It’s like life, which is not always about sunshine and honeybees. This is what I call music, which reflects life, my life.”

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The seven-track-album is likely to be released as an indie effort, and comes across as a constant joust between the cheek of youth and the detachment borne out of experience. At 25, Singh is less than half of Datta’s 51 years. The former’s drums, laptop and MIDI Controller driven experiments with rhythm, sounds and noises is offset by the crispy clean note playing, much of it on the acoustic guitar, by Datta. Both, though, find common consolation in celebrating the fringe; the duo living at the very edges of conventional harmonic and rhythmic constructs.

There are no escapist pleasures to be derived from the album, which works its way through layers of complexities and sonic textures. Datta too, having seen many of his students take the livelihood shortcut by composing puerile profit-making pop, expects nothing but the intelligent, open-eared listener to be able to unpeel the album. Dark and menacing in most parts, and brooding and mystical in tracks like Dance Acoustica — the only composition where Singh sacrifices the industrial soundscape of other tracks in favour of the cajon — the album is also relentlessly unsettling, challenging listeners to gain a steady grip over the music.

It is a sound that is also undeniably technology-reliant with every sound emerging from Singh’s drum kit going through layers of effects at the recording and post-production stage and getting transformed as  the whirr, buzz, ring and trill of an ominous doomsday world — in turn too, broadening the prospects of regular drumming as most know it.

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In numbers like “Ironic Bironic” and the title track, Datta fleetingly flirts with Indian ragas. There is also little of the rock and blues idiom, which has given him his stature in the music world, in the album. Even if jazz is the one genre that would readily come to mind while describing his playing, Datta would only say that it merely borders on jazz. “For it to be truly jazz, there has to be distinct intonations. And many people inIndiastill think jazz can’t be played without a saxophone and only swing is jazz. Jazz umbrella has expanded to include a lot more.”  

On his part, Singh — a few days before he leaves for Mumbai to team up with British-Indian musician Nitin Sawhney for a Coke Studio show — finds a democratic swirl in the spread of electronica, “when the music, unlike something like jazz, can no longer be pinned within geographical and political boundaries.”

“This album is like a document of our time. It needed to be documented too for who we are,” says Datta of the album that is slated to be released in August.

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