#ReviewRundown: November and December 2021
Our verdict on releases from When Chai Met Toast, Demonstealer, Vishruti, Binglebog, Rohan Prasanna and Archonist
Rohan Prasanna – Bouquet of Life
Trained in sarod by Amjad Ali Khan and also a regular at the indie scene with rock band Kitanu as well as other collaborations, Rohan Prasanna keeps listeners guessing on his debut full-length album Bouquet of Life. He treats these nine tracks and 45 minutes as a sort of proving ground, going by just how much diversity and genre fluidity is exhibited. There are somber Indian classical flourishes (“Out of Body”), sarod fusion (“She’s Like a Breeze,” “Melody of Enlightenment,” “Room Vibes”), funk grooves laid over sarod (“Too Much Bro,” “Camel in a Club”) and prog assaults with his own twists (“Intellidjentlewomen”). There’s grandiosity, but at times, it feels like Prasanna stretches himself a bit thin.
Binglebog – God Is A Guitarist EP
A backstory tied to Vikram Seth’s novel Frog & The Nightingale, Binglebog offers his debut EP God Is A Guitarist under anonymity but the persistent question of who/whom melts away once within the opening minutes of “Same People (Different Drugs).” He’s the kind of softspoken, introspective friend who can make any gathering seem cozy, as the layered, tender guitar melodies and leads on the title track stand testament. It’s not all acoustic and folksy, though. He teams up with another pseudonymous artist named Radiobred, for a sparking synth-pop turn on “Pink Flashes,” which turns the atmosphere from campfire jam to all-night dance-off. A promising debut.
When Chai Met Toast – When We Feel Young
A lot has changed for Kerala’s indie/folk mainstays When Chai Met Toast since they began rolling out the singles for their full-length album When We Feel Young from last year. It’s unquestionably their leap towards arena-ready, room-filling rock which can also feel ever-so-intimate. Buoyed by Palee Francis’ hued keyboards, agile drum work from Pail Sailesh, guitarist and banjo player Achyuth Jaigopal’s spirited flittering, and vocalist Ashwin Gopakumar’s bright-side lyrics, there are no missteps on When We Feel Young. “Ocean Tide” and the title track are bright, emphatic hits, the Hindi song “Kahaani” ( lyrics by Ankur Tewari) tugs at heartstrings, as does the dreamy song “Remember.” Upliftment is the name of the game for When Chai Met Toast and songs like “Break Free” and the disco pop-rock closer “Maybe I Can Fly” pack in plenty of power for a band who have hitched a ride upwards into the stars and are keen on taking us along.
Vishruti – Changing Cities EP
After years of managing artists and events and being in the music business, you can sense that Bengaluru/Valencia singer-songwriter Vishruti still offers songs from the heart instead of a calculated result of what is expected to “work” in the music industry. Short, breezy tunes like “Ends on the Bridge” perfectly capture that energy, while “Changing Cities” adapts a slow swing rhythm to somber effect. Vishruti explores separation, togetherness and more all within the framework of cities (“Skyline”), while the arrangement of strings, guitars and drums keep us guessing in the best way possible.
Archonist – Endless Highway
Jaipur/New Delhi rock band Archonist lean on everything from modern metal riffs to the early 2000s alternative/post-grunge wave. The fist-tight finesse of songs like “Highway” instantly recall the likes of Breaking Benjamin, and we hear a bit of Alter Bridge on songs like “Sands of Summer Time” and “Wake Up to the Call,” but Archonist’s no-nonsense songwriting is what makes it stick. At times nostalgic for everyone who got into American rock at the start of the millennium, Archonist still pull away from cliches, offering intensity on “One More Chance,” “Born to Fight,” “Alone” and “No Help Needed.” The riffs might sound familiar but Archonist always turn away at the right juncture to offer refreshing modern rock.
Demonstealer – The Holocene Termination EP
Mumbai metalhead Demonstealer started 2021 with “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” featuring none other than Gino Banks and Mohini Dey on drums and bass, respectively. It perhaps spurred on Sahil Makhija’s penchant for collaborations and sessions with artists on his EP The Holocene Termination. Arguably, Demonstealer has cracked the idea of a dominating, unfaltering EP on this new release. The title track opens explosively, while “An Epoch of Degradation” is a relentless, thundering blow of the hammer. The artist’s growls have aged like fine wine (or whatever the abrasive equivalent is) on “From Extinction Begins Evolution,” which entertains nihilist thoughts and batters through the course of five minutes. Members of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Marduk and Six Feet Under deliver impeccably, while “What She Creates, She Will Destroy” sees Demonstealer stomp into new(ish) territory, introducing the seething vocals of Veronica Bordacchini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) with brutal results.
Final Surrender – Frogs In A Pan EP
Bengaluru metallers Final Surrender return with their first collection of songs since their 2017 album Nothing But Void and serve up the kind of evolution you’d like to hear in modern metalcore. They retain Indian classical and fusion elements (“Hubris” and a little bit of “The Cacophony Within”) but strike hardest with their precisive and anthemic sound on “A Perfect Lie.” Now rejoined by guitarist-producer Sanjay Kumar, we can hear more djent than ever before but also experiments like the bright synths populated on “Frogs in a Pan,” making the title track a clear winner. Drummer Jared Sandhy shares vocal duties with the ever-visceral Joseph Samuel, with the latter being so ready for the stage that they incorporate a “Sing! Sing! Sing!” goading on “Machinations of a Kamikaze.” Raring to go, as always.
Kavya – Know Me Better EP
Masterful at being the kind of artist who sings like she’s sitting right in front of you, Kavya laments, introspects and ultimately celebrates everything about herself on her latest EP Know Me Better. Aided by the subtle yet warm production chops of Anhad Khanna, “Lay Your Head Down” is instantly memorable, but “Affection” daringly stretches to five minutes, making for a labored yet rewarding listen. On “MN,” there’s confessional tales narrated slickly and almost nonchalantly, as Kavya sings: “I was killed with kindness, murder and mercy.” Boldness continues to be her strong point across projects, with her inimitable drawn-out croons on songs like “Cold” tapping right into the consciousness of pop music in 2021.