BLOT! Release Debut Album
The record heralds a new direction for the duo who kick off their album launch tour in Delhi
“It’s been this huge mutant monkey on our back and we can’t wait for it to clamber off,” laughs Gaurav Malaker, the aural half of the duo BLOT! (Basic Love Of The Things), which also comprises visual artist, Avinash Kumar. “I hope it’s well received. We’ve worked really hard on it, and it’s been a long-haul, but also really fun, and a massive learning experience,” adds Malaker, referring to the marathon exercise of putting together their new album, Snafu.
We made the trek up to their Hauz Khaz Village studio in Delhi, perched neatly on the top floor of a building in a narrow, winding alley to get an exclusive first listen of the album. We can tell you that you shouldn’t judge the album by its name. Less than half way through, our sensors happily abandoned the aim to find any snafu in the album, andÂ for good reason.
This full-length artist album is BLOT! going bananas, reveling in sounds and breaking boundaries in a manner that’s at once exciting and inspiring. Not only has their production upped the ante, but every one of the tracks explores and melds genres like nu-school techno, break-beat, dub-step, and even panoramic ambient. Another new feature is their collaboration with other artists. They’ve worked with Vasundhara from Adil & Vasundhara, Suryakant Sawhney from Peter Cat Recording Co. and Mandeep Sethi, the Sikh rapper from San Francisco, who all lend their vocals to some tracks. Sethi contributes on “Goulash”, which is a grimy, break-beat take on dub-step. You’ll even get hints of reggae in there. Snafu has a couple of real stand-outs. Vasundhara features on a gem called “NDX”. The track also has a bonus instrumental mix that is a blend of mellow, groovy techno and nu-disco. Perhaps this is a new genre; nudiscotech? It’s also proof that a lowered BPM (beats per minute) doesn’t make a track any less dancefloor friendly. “Spacedust” is fittingly spacey and techno with loads of reverb rasping into a bassline that kicks in like a palpitating heartbeat. We normally demur from words like “trippy”, but the adjective springs to mind when the incredibly sexy breakdown comes in after the slow, deep riser. This is a nod to BLOT!’s minimal-tech roots, but with lashings of different synths and techno seams, which makes it an ideal peak-time track.
Psychedelic fans would be surprised, because this may not be their territory at all, but theÂ glove still fits. “9283” is damp, low-fi and bass-heavy. It rolls in, in slow waves. But the smart use of horns and static in the rise and swell makes it laze into ambient terrain. Says Malaker, “We might’ve chosen to blur the boundaries between sounds, but it hasn’t been a conscious effort, or a rejection of genres or classicism. As a producer, I don’t think of classifying music into genres as being positive or negative. It serves a function for listeners.” “VXV” takes it one step further in terms of mood. It’s a meditative take on melodic, ambient psychedelic.
The title-track “Snafu,” was created on a flight, but may be the most complex contribution on the album. It’s an open, menacing leviathan, which normally wouldn’t be palatable to most. But the basslines do the talking here and make it more accessible. With all the different synth textures layered on top of each other, there’s a distinct funk bass. A guitar-picked rumble and bells lead on gliding notes, placed on a low BPM and spaced with a complex delay design. There are mutated vocal snippets that punctuate the track, and all these elements combine to give the song a razor-sharp, dancefloor splicing edge.
With so much ground covered, Snafu is a testament to just how far these two friends have come, since they got together in 2007. Kumar pops his head in from his studio space across the floor, to check in. “I guess it’s just more mature in some ways. The album’s meant equally for listening, and not only dancing in clubs, so it has more melodic and moody aspects to it,” adds Kumar. “I think the consolidated direction is simple though ”“Â it’s just following our hearts and exploring and learning about the things we love to do at any point in time.”
Â When Malaker and Kumar first exploded onto the electronica scene five years ago, theirÂ unique sound percolated down to the roots of the EDM movement. It was minimal, cerebral music – sparse and skeletal in parts, textured and deep in others. While techno and house were ubiquitous at the time, minimal genres were definitely not de rigueur. That changed after BLOT! emerged. They challenged existing notions about minimal through the conviction Malaker put in his sets and eventual productions. The message was clear: minimal wasn’t one-dimensional, tinny, blippy or non-musical. There were stories waiting to be told, and all you had to do was listen.
Another integral factor of their instant popularity was Kumar’s mastery of the visual realm. BLOT! were the first artists, inIndia, to thoroughly explore the whole package of the audio-visual experience. Kumar could, and would (and still does), project everything from old arthouse cinema stills to stop-motion montages on any surface that’s available to him, creating an alternative space where sound and sight meet at a complementary point of intersection.
Last year, BLOT! created and curated two festivals ”“ Technodrome and India Goes 3D ”“both of which involved a focus on sound reactive and 3D content. This year, Snafu heralds even more changes ”“ a newer, more “theatrical” performance space for the duo. Malaker explains, “After the album launches, we’re building a new performance-based show with live musicians, immersive and interactive video and lots of theatrical elements, as well as playing with as much technology as we can.” That’s just part one. BLOT! Also intends to release a lot more EPs and will get started on their next album, almost immediately after Snafu is out. In addition to this, Malaker and Kumar are alsoÂ focussing on taking Technodrome to an even bigger stage with more music and multimedia components. And if that didn’t sound like they have their hands full, they’re also starting work on the BLOT! clothing line.
So, the question is, with five years of a meteoric trajectory, why didn’t the album emerge earlier? “Stuff we’ve produced in the past hasn’t felt like something we’d be happy to release. This time feels different,” says Malaker. Kumar adds, “In the present context for music with the internet, the concept of an album and its meaning has really changed since people consume individual pieces of music or music videos, and make their own compilations pretty easily.” Both nod in agreement with the logical rebuttal that industry consumerism notwithstanding, music still has to be made. Kumar concurred, “I think we also realized that it was just as important for us as artists to take what we learnt and put it into a neat packet and move on to new adventures.”
Catch BLOT! perform with Vasundhara, Suryakant Sawhney from Peter Cat Recording Co and Kohra at Cheri, Delhi on August 17th, 2012