#ReviewRundown: October 2020
This month, we give our verdict on new releases by Aizawl rockers Avora Records, producer Dior, Ahmedabad studio Compass Box’s new compilation and more
Project Trident – The Return of RA
Dropping us into a thematic universe in which Hindu god Shiva is reincarnated as RA in a village, “to fight against military and corporate colonization” (as founder and guitarist Sukhendu Chakraborty describes it). In the first of a three-part story (that will be narrated through two subsequent albums), The Return of RA offers up roving djent, modern prog and ambient elements that are refreshing, even if slightly laborious. The riffs on songs like “Aakraman” don’t disappoint, while “Yatra” is adept cinematic metal. With guest solos by Kolkata axemen such as Pritam Middey (from metallers Evil Conscience), John Paul (on the slamming “Uddeshya”), Amit Shankar Dutt and Bodhisattwa Ghosh. There are moments of prog expanse amidst breakdowns, even if some songs don’t hold as much attention, The Return of RA is likely to impress even the most staunch prog fans.
Avora Records – Comedians on Drugs
After a year or two of releasing top-notch singles and music videos to boot, Aizawl indie band Avora Records bottle their pristine, emphatic and math rock-inflected energy on Comedians on Drugs. The 10-track record is bold in its flow, starting with a pendulous six-minute song called “Imperfections,” but then comes the familiar, conviction bearing tunes like “Sunday.” It’s a bit confusing when things get starry-eyed on “Millennials,” but the band sticks to anthemic arena-ready tunes like “Walt of the Foolish Youth” and “Borders.” Avora Records are at their cheekiest best, though, on “If You’re Not Sweating to This Then Honey You’re Not 90’s” and with the twisted “After the After Party.” In their quest for serious songwriting, there’s a mixed bag of songs on Comedians on Drugs, but Avora Records shine strong nevertheless.
SDR, Deazy – Kalank
Hip-hop has been a weapon of choice for artists across cities in India in the last few years, perhaps more so following the mainstream nod it has received from Bollywood. Madhya Pradesh duo Deazy and SDR call on producer Aditya Gupta aka AGM for a 20-minute glimpse into their world on Kalank, their first release as a duo. The young and braggadocious duo are straightforward and unsparing in their thoughts on loss, friendship and determination on songs like “Kar Kaam” and “Kho Chuka Hoon,” amongst others. The beats aren’t too different from the standard fare of current American hip-hop production and the rappers’ vocal spars often sound similar to artists like New Delhi’s Seedhe Maut. “Aelaan” aims high and “Kheti” are amongst the more refreshing cuts, which makes Kalank a suitably steadfast first step for SDR and Deazy.
Dior – Drug Love & Madness
Mizoram rapper-producer Dior aka David Thangjam (who also produces under the moniker Yugi Beats) has been hopping genres ever since 2016 and his latest EP has its finger on the pulse of wavy, lo-fi chill hip-hop. While he’s got rapper Banrap Lyngdoh helming vocals on “Cellphone,” Dior woos the girl (even if explicitly) on “Burn With You” and gets dramatically emo on “Overdose” even if it’s delivered in the most nonchalant way. The messed-up melodies work cleverly on “Overthinking,” but some of the punch is still missing. “Don’t Need” is that one last leap for subdued, soulful songwriting, but it ends the autobiographical snapshot a little too abruptly.
Various Artists – Compass Box Music: Unboxed, Vol. 2 (Live)
Ahmedabad’s Compass Box Studio has been encouraging not just indie talent in their region and the state of Gujarat, but also nudging artists from different parts of the country to drop by for a jam session ever since they opened in February last year. There’s mostly easygoing rock and pop arrangements, infused with the character of Ahmedabad’s ace instrumentalists – Rohan Chaudhary’s “Misery” gets a teary violin section, Nisa Shetty’s “Leave This City” is sublime pop, while Saar’s “Raat” gets a swing/jazz groove and there’s reggae vibes for Sharad’s “No Lover.” Singer-songwriters like Malay Vyas and Samar Mehdi arguably have the most powerful songs on this volume, while Fame the Band have the rousing rock spectrum of things covered and Protyay Chakraborty’s folksy violin returns to elevate Abhin Joshi’s “Sab Baatein Hai.”
BlareMob – Dreams & Nightmares
On their second EP this year, New Delhi duo BlareMob – Keshav Bhardwaj and Himanshu Chhabra – there’s breezy, radiant EDM that’s a good fit for dancefloors as well as for those who swear by escapist tendencies. Dreams & Nightmares isn’t nearly as dark as the title suggests, just moody as all. The bombastic synth punctuations of “Light” are a tad too formulaic, but the hip-hop/pop informed sound of “Magic” gets it right, while the choppy percussive patterns on “Promise” make the hook unshakeable. The familiar structure of “Long Day” is saved by the hectic energy on the track but “Make You Mine” is the song that truly allows the duo to level up from their previous record No Brainer, melding sprawling movements and gleeful pop choruses with a glitchy beat.