#ReviewRundown: April 2020
Our verdict on new releases from Indian indie, including Peepal Tree, Sandesh Nagaraj, Treble Puns, Iram and Ankur Sabharwal
Peepal Tree – 560001
If anyone thought Bengaluru band Peepal Tree were going to play it safe with more traditional yet multilingual rock, this new turn with a pop-leaning electronic-informed Kannada EP called 560001 changes things. The four-track EP is a collaboration with producer-composer (and longstanding supporter of the band) Sandeep Chowta, so perhaps diehard rock fans who know Peepal Tree from their days in prog band Bhoomi, could consider this as a short detour. On its own, songs like “Nammuru Bengaluru” (with rapper Gubbi) and “Friendship” are can’t-fail mood lifters, vocalist Sujay Harthi sends out a rallying call on the electro-rock “The Heart of Rock n Roll,” which even features a bit of tabla. “Taani Tandana” is about as folksy and unplugged as Peepal Tree get, taking a traditional song and making it a campfire jam. More of a snapshot, 560001 is fiercely Kannadiga and proud, but not in a chest-beating sort of way.
Treble Puns – Sounds Like Treble
Formed in late 2018 in Bengaluru, Treble Puns haven’t exactly flown under the radar but have been more or less doing their own thing. When it comes to post-rock, it clearly takes a studio release to establish a footprint. Guitarist Abhimanyu Roy and drummer Sohini Bhattacharya take us on a formidable trip in the course of 28 minutes and four tracks. There’s prog shifts and blankets of ambience (“No Teacher’s Pet”), Hindi dialog samples and roller coaster guitar lines (“Father of the Notion”) and mind-bending Carnatic guitar excursions (the cheekily titled “No Mask Aram”) and groovy grand-scale jams (“Momologue”). An enveloping trip from start to finish, Sounds like Treble proves that instrumental rock is far from getting stale in India.
Ankur Sabharwal – The Ride
A seasoned voice who’s spent about two decades in musicals and plays, New Delhi’s Ankur Sabharwal evokes strong ballad rock hues on his debut EP The Ride. Collaborating with keyboardist Shivam Khare, drummer Arjun Mathur, guitarist Nishant Parashar and bassist Sonic Shori, there are five tracks of easygoing rock that’s high on emotive conviction, thanks to Sabharwal’s sublime voice. Guests Abhay Sharma (The Revisit Project) adds rousing saxophone parts to energize “You and I” and Rohit Gupta (Peter Cat Recording Co.) brings a glimmering to “Better Man” and “The Ride.” Apart from those two tracks, The Ride doesn’t offer something entirely new sonically, melodically or lyrically, but Sabharwal clearly has a way with his voice.
Iram – Live at Music Mojo
Much has changed for Bengaluru’s Urdu rock band Iram since the release of their 2016 EP Azal. The ambient and post-rock sonic treatment morphs into an equally wondrous stargazing alt-rock sound with vocalist-composer and guitarist Neil Simon Abel leading the rest of the band. Guitarist and keyboardist Aadarsh Subramanian, bassist Shashank Dutt and drummer Shawn Jacob take it slow and calming across five tracks. Songs like “Aaina” and “Karegar” from Azal are adeptly translated into a band format and a newer track like “Soz” shines at a soothing pace. The band builds into a darker, heavier prog space on “Wajood” while “Saaqib” is buoyed by dreamy synth layers and orchestral production.
Sandesh Nagaraj – Full of Life | Full of Death
Once a part of the Bengaluru metal scene as riffsmith for bands like Extinct Reflections and Myndsnare, Sandesh Nagaraj has been experimental throughout his career. As if projects like The Sonic Chameleon, Syreim and The Replicate didn’t showcase his diversity, the Los Angeles-based composer has now released Full of Life | Full of Death via Subcontinental Records, which is 17 minutes of unsettling, nervy noise experiments. He generates sounds from thermacol, flute and horns on “Growling In A Black,” introduces swathes of leering guitar noises and electronics on “Howling In A Black” and messes with samples and an imposing amount of feedback on “Mourning In A Black,” encapsulating the human life cycle in his own twisted way.