#ReviewRundown: August 2021
We check out the latest releases from jazz duo Tinctures, hip-hop siblings Cartel Madras, indie-rock band Sulfurcloud, rock artist Deepak Rao and more
Cartel Madras – The Serpent and the Tiger
After an incredible rise in the last three years, Indo-Canadian sister duo Cartel Madras stand atop a pile of haters and doubters and stomp down with conviction on their latest record The Serpent and the Tiger. Unflinching in their flow, firing off references to telenovelas, Chennai and everything in between, there’s a celebration of power, sexuality and self-belief across 10 tracks. Producer Dom Dias provides percussive firepower and 808 madness on songs like “Fear & Loathing” and “Eboshi’s Nevada” while “Drift” is an all-out rager. Backxwash brings the fuel in his verse for “Deepinthejungle,” but then Eboshi and Contra also turn to chiller hip-hop sonics with producers Tyris White and Jide. Songs like “Lavender Nightz,” “Dream Girl Concept” and “Working” are fluid and smooth new explorations which prove Cartel Madras can do it all and make you move along in agreement.
Deepak Rao – Catharsis
Bengaluru guitarist and composer Deepak Rao gets back to rock, metal and mixes in his love for electronica (as well as fusion) on a 22-track double album called Catharsis. It’s a lot to take on and also a lot to ask from a listener, given Rao’s affinity for the number 11. Thus, there are 11 tracks on each side, clocking in at a total of 111 minutes, with the final song “The Moola Mantra” being a meditation that runs on for 11 minutes and 11 seconds. The music, itself, is often psychedelic in that it doesn’t always demand your full attention, although Rao’s solos on songs like “Void” and “Scorpion” certainly make you sit up. Catharsis is a journeying album and while it’s clearly heartfelt, Rao’s composing could do with less experimentation and more tightening.
Tinctures – Heads and Tales
The debut studio album Heads and Tales from Bengaluru pianist Aman Mahajan and Berlin-based guitarist Nishad Pandey as Tinctures is a showcase of an improvised jazz combo between two instruments you rarely hear. A song like “World 1-1” is clearly a good choice for an opener with its expectant energy, while “Uncharted” sees Pandey lead with seemingly jazz-fusion guitar. “Grasshoppers” is where the playfulness between the duo is in full swing (along with “Send In The Clowns”) and it’s bound to induce a smile or grin. Their transportive energy comes through on “Dewdrop” as well, with ambient elements. All in all, an important new record in Indian jazz lore, one that keeps the tradition of improvisation and experimentation running.
Dasa x Shaq-T – Kalliyugam
Coimbatore-bred artists Dasa aka Nikhel Kallingel and Shaq-T aka Sakthivel Karthikeyan bring together a charged-up new collaborative EP Kalliyugam. What starts as a no holds barred attitude on “Give Or Take” turns to a alt-pop vibe on “Xo,” a swerving hip-hop informed tune. The diversity continues to be Dasa and Shaq-T’s goal on the five-track EP. While “Top-It” leans a little too much on its hook, “Blade Balu” introduces a dose of Tamil pop culture, with film dialog samples and a gangster ambition in the duo’s bars. Kalliyugam hits just the right balance between global and local sounds, which is why it’s no surprise that the record has been released via maajja, making for a short but memorable opening innings by Dasa and Shaq-T.
Sushant – You
21-year-old Mumbai producer Sushant Chavare gets into loverboy mode on his debut record You, created as a gift for his partner and the time they’ve spent together. Flittering guitars dig into a familiar but bright groove on songs like “hey” and “4:58 pm.” He ably gives an acoustic-aided melody the lo-fi treatment on “thinking about you,” while songs like “soft blanket” revel in quietness. The late-night instrumental hip-hop game is strong but not entirely fresh all the time. Overlooking that, the breathy, chill sound on songs like “complicated” and “bad days” are promising, shapeshifting works that are the real highlights on You.
Sulfurcloud – Brand New Life
Swirling, star-gazing rock is on offer with indie band Sulfurcloud’s new EP Brand New Life. Released in a piecemeal fashion over the span of a couple of months, they unpack relationships and ideas of escapism on songs like the psychedelic “Mystery” and steady running “Disappear.” There’s angst paired with alt-rock on “Letting You Go,” but the yearning drawl of vocalist-guitarist Peeebeee doesn’t exactly cut through. Barring that slight misstep, Sulfurcloud channel a bit of U2 and arena-rock on “Brand New Life,” in the vocal melodies as well as spirited rock. The lyrics on the title track are perhaps the band’s way to consolidate the EP’s themes and the positive message is hoisted into the atmosphere, for the listener’s taking.
Dime Store Reject – Reptiles
U.K.-based, Bengaluru-bred singer-songwriter and producer Rahul Menon (from rock band Kyojin) intonates a bit like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on his solo project Dime Store Reject’s debut EP Reptiles. It provides warmth and coziness in its sonics (“Reptiles”) but the lyrics voice out anger. It might be in the sweetest way possible but “Glass” and “Dimes” address everything that Menon feels is out of place and unfair. The electronic tinge to “Gaslight” makes it sound triumphant, while “Black” veils itself in Auto Tune and subtle beats, making Reptiles an intriguing and yet comforting listening experience.
Rajiv Khati Collective – About Time
At 54 minutes, seasoned vocalist and composer Rajiv Khati really digs into memories and makes ample use of sonic space on his album About Time. Nostalgic, roomy rock and pop ballads invoke the Nineties sound, Khati also draws from his 20-year run as a tenor in opera productions. There’s angst and real emotions no doubt delivered with conviction, but with songs averaging at six or seven minutes, Khati is also quite self-indulgent. Churning out this record from his own Big Bang Studio, groove-driven songs like “Little Love,” “Home” and “Lucky” – even with its solos and all – are sometimes languid but still resonate decently thanks to Khati’s impassioned vocals.