#ReviewRundown: September 2019
Our verdict on freshest indie releases from across the country, featuring post-rock band Aswekeepsearching, rock outfit Gumbal, Tamil hip-hop duo Arivu x OfRO and more
Rinky Sharma – Tangled EP
★ ★ ★
Hyderabad-based singer-songwriter Rinky Sharma seems to represent the things that anyone loved about 90s and early 2000s pop-rock on her debut EP Tangled. There’s enchanting folksy acoustic guitar lines right below Sharma’s vocals on songs like “Ankahi” and “Somehow.” The lyrics in Hindi and English are clearly informed by mined life experiences, that Sharma delivers with acceptance. Love songs like “Tangled” and “Flame” have metaphors we’re all too familiar with, but that’s where the variance in melodies can perhaps get feet tapping. “Zindagi” also has that laidback pop infectiousness to it, even with its simplicity. Tangled is a record for anyone who’d like to unwind after a long day, maybe even reminisce a little.
Gumbal – Armstrong’s List
★ ★ ★ ½
Mumbai space rock band Gumbal have been on and off in the Mumbai circuit, ever since founder member Arjun Iyer released the striking debut EP A For in 2014. But now Gumbal is a proper rock band, comprising drummer Varoon Aiyer (former rock bands Split, BLEK), bassist Satish Sridhar and guitarist Siddharth Talwar (from alt-rock band Spud In The Box). Together, they’ve crafted hair-raising space-themed rock that shines with the intensity you come across from very few bands in India right now. Gumbal surf tenuous rhythms on songs like “Small Step,” “Rocks Remember” and “Born Under the Second Law,” temper out the sense of stupefaction on “That Tiny Pea, Pretty and Blue” and bring chaos on “A Finite Number Of Heartbeats” for one soaring trip from take-off to impact landing.
Arivu x OfRO – Therukural
★ ★ ★ ★
Chennai-based rapper Arivu started out in music a few years ago and didn’t even realize the way he was singing was considered rap. With help from producer OfRO aka Rohith Abraham, one of the vocalists in Tamil Nadu’s pathbreaking Casteless Collective has released his debut solo album that clocks in at just 22 minutes but has the impact of a volcano erupting. In his acerbic Tamil, Arivu takes down two-facedness in people and politicians (“Kalla Mouni”), sardonically asks for your Aadhar card on the frigid trap-laced “Anti Indian” and pours his heart out for the killings of Snowlin in the 2018 Sterlite firing in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) as well as 8-year-old Asifa Bano in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir. It’s one of the most poignant moments, but OfRO steps in on the lighthearted EDM take “Thamizhachi” as Arivu gets back to sarcastic swipes (“Middle Class,” which seems to interpolate/subvert Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang”) and tells us he’s still going to have fun exposing Indian society’s debilitating double standards (“Ok Sir”).
Aswekeepsearching – Rooh
★ ★ ★ ½
On their third full-length album, Pune post-rock band Aswekeepsearching grow but stay ever so grounded in their perceived strengths. There’s emotion-fueled cascading rock (“Chasing Light, “Green and Blue”) and sarangi-aided soundscapes (“Aas Paas”). Electronic detours such as “Eneke Najaaba” and the stargazing string section-aided “A Night In Zottegem” come in at just the right time, providing diversity, while the title track is trademark Aswekeepsearching, building up for a grand-scale crescendo. There’s a surprisingly sparse acoustic turn on “Aitbaar” and a gentle ambient closer “Gangtey,” all of which rounds up Rooh as an essential listen for any post-rock fan, even if Aswekeepsearching continues pushing themselves into a more accessible sound.
Deccan Plateau – Slipstream
★ ★ ★ ½
It’s difficult to decipher a lot of what Mumbai-based Deccan Plateau – an audio production and publishing facility – are trying to do in terms of overarching goals, but composer-producer Sushant Thatte gifts us a mind-bending album with Slipstream. Featuring guitarist Rahul Nadkarni (formerly of electronic/rock band Sky Rabbit), there’s psychedelic genre-hopping on offer through the course of six tracks. Where Deccan Plateau has previously offered ambient, sound design-esque pieces since late 2017, Slipstream is a collection of atmospheric, rhythmically diverse music that defies genres. “Coriolis Effect” is fast paced, while “Solar Winds” takes its time to build up and disintegrate, with its twisty synth work. It’s expertly crafted spacey music for sky watching on a clear night.
Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, Karsh Kale – Infinity
★ ★ ★ ½
Seasoned sarod artist Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, the sons of renowned Indian classical music artist Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, turn to producer and multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale for their new album Infinity. The opening title track features the sarod alone, while the brothers Amaan and Ayaan along with Kale trudge slowly into electronic territory (“Home,” the slick yet morose “Believe”). New Delhi vocalist Pavithra Chari adds to the wistful mood on “Darkness” while her fusion duo Shadow and Light join on “Space Between” and Amjad Ali Khan too provides heart-tugging, string-bending emotion on the layered electro-fusion piece “Journeyman.” Infinity is a tasteful exploration into the sarod and how Kale can work in the most cinematic elements seamlessly.