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Phi Degrees of Separation

Bhuvan Sachdeva and Amit Bharadwaj are leading a new brat-pack that’s experimenting with an entirely different set of sounds.

Jun 21, 2009
Rolling Stone India - Google News

You can’t help but be a little perplexed by Bhuvan Sachdeva’s Dali-meets-Adam Duritz look when you meet him for the first smile. As if to counter it, his quiet band mate Amit Bharadwaj (aka DJ MIT) puts his wine aside to welcome me with a broad smile. You can feel their adrenaline rise as they anxiously count down to showtime. The venue is Blue Frog and it’s a packed Saturday affair.

Their act, dubbed Phi Degrees, is an ingenious juxtaposition of cyclic grooves, pumped with thumping bass lines and backed with ambient textures. Though being recent entrants into the electronica scene, both musicians have had their share of musical glory with past projects and collaborations. Sachdeva and Bharadwaj met at a gig and eventually started jamming. “I guess the best things happen while fooling around”, says Bhuvan when quizzed about their inception. After “fooling around” and exchanging tracks for a while they decided to take their music to the next level by forming a two-piece electro outfit. But why the name Phi Degrees?

”Well, Phi is a Greek letter which basically denotes a variant, thus it indicates degrees of variables. Our music has different kinds of sounds; from hip-hop to DnB and electro to breakbeat. And in that sense we have many degrees of variants to explore and fool around with”. The duo does not believe in following a set production pattern or structure as Bhuvan says, “We always love to surprise ourselves.” They even refrain from getting bogged down by genres or any musical influences.

Other than routing processed sounds through their new age machines, Phi Degrees believes in using live instruments as well, creating a holistic sound. They have a whole ensemble of percussion instruments which are an intrinsic part of their soundscapes.  “The dynamics, real-time feel and modulations on a live instrument enrich the textures. We process our instruments in a way that sits in with our sound,” explains Amit. Recently they have been busy gigging across Indian clubs and this is the first time they were wooing the crowd at Blue Frog with their selection of melodies.

”We would love to play festivals,” says Bhuvan when I probed about their dream venue, “The audiences have a different level of acceptance at festivals compared to when they go partying or for a live gig in their town. And yes we would love to play all possible venues across the world.” Amit adds, “It is a very good time for electronic music in India. In fact the Indian audiences are open to newer genres and experimental music. Why not explore the market here?”

Amit asserts that bands like Jalabee Cartel and Bhavishyavani Soundsystem are taking Indian electronica to the world. Not only the audiences but even varied venues have opened up to eletro acts. The mushrooming fad for processed sounds has led to artists collaborating and creating wondrous music. Though Amit and Bhuvan are the core of Phi Degrees they team up with artists to create an appealing blend of electronica. They have Aditi Singh Sharma, who lends her voice to Bollywood films like U Me Aur Hum, Sorry Bhai and Dev D. She even fronts two rock bands ”“ Level 9 and Crimson. Bass phenomena Lew Hilt add his touch of jazz to the collective while ace guitarist AJ (of HFT and The Great Society fame) fuses his selection of tunes to the collective.

The Phi Degrees experience does not end here. After chasing directors around the city Amit and Bhuvan have managed to produce music for some unique properties. Bhuvan gets into the details, “We did a score for a short film named The Private Life of Albert Pinto which has been screened at the Osian Film Festival, the Washington and NY Film Festival and now its going down to the Tokyo Film Festival. We did the music and sound design for the same.” From producing the background music for the play Pukar (for Nadira Babbar’s theatre group, Ekjute) to creating a title track for a show on Zee Radio, Amit and Bhuvan are proud about working with some of the finest artists and brands.
Moving on to Phi Degrees’ future plans. “If all goes well, we’re thinking of spilling out our sounds,” says Bhuvan referring to their album release with a big smile on his face. I leave the venue convinced that Amit and Bhuvan are the beginning of a new breed of independent musicians who are constantly experimenting and innovating, eventually creating a novel musical ecosystem.

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