#ReviewRundown: April 2021
Our verdict on the latest from hip-hop artist Yungsta, Chennai metal duo Avekn, techno stalwart Ash Roy and more
Yungsta – Mehfil
Among the heavy hitter records which have come from the capital in the first quarter of 2021 (Prabh Deep’s Tabia, Rawal and Bharg’s Sab Chahiye), rapper Yungsta aka Yash Chandra traverses trap and hip-hop with total conviction on his new album Mehfil. Intended as a celebration as well as a narration of the journey so far, Yungsta deftly jumps from party vibes (“Jaan Ley” ft Harjas, “Fikar” ft Nivé ) to cautionary (“Hukumat” ft Arrnik). Referencing farmer protests in the skit “#DGG,” it sets up for “Mehfil Cypher,” a slam dunk of four rappers – Yungsta, Enkore, MC Kode and Yashraj. Real stories are the fuel of Mehfil, which is arguably why Yungsta can stand a cut above the rest in India’s hip-hop scene. He’s still wary (“Fall”) but gets pumped to the fullest with Raga on “Presidential,” an exceptional takedown. The outro “Celebration,” produced by Xarons and featuring vocalist Maanuni Desai, is perhaps a hint of future direction, one that’s shimmering, groovy and emancipating.
Kon-Ark – Shards
Described as “sonic decapitation” by founder Anshuman Mishra, Kon-Ark is the Mumbai-based producer, guitarist and synth artist’s swim into the unchartered. In April alone, Mishra – the former guitarist for metal band Escher’s Knot turned sound engineer – has released an EP (Acidic), a single (“Antacid”) and a full-length album called Shards. The opening track “Whispers of the Nauticus” features an assist from fellow Mumbai sound engineer and producer Caroline Stedman aka Miss Kotton and the rest of the nine-track record is a chasmic electronic record that goes beyond just twisting knobs on an analog synth. “Murk” is suitably dark, “Nori” is contrastingly vibrant, as is “Sudarshana Acid.” There’s increasingly mind-bending experiments which flitter all over, evoking sharp changes in energy (“Shards,” “Itch” and “thewayyoulookatme”) and it all makes Kon-Ark the kind of artist you can turn on, tune in and drop out to.
Avekn – Rude Awakening EP
Chennai-based alt-metal duo Avekn – comprising vocalist-bassist Anusha Rema and guitarist Keshav M. – pour in equal parts gothic, molten and extreme metal on their debut three-track EP Rude Awakening. With vocals that oscillate fervently between growls and squeaky clean harmonies, “Point Of It All” is centered around early 2000s rock/metal, while the title track seems like an early demo that’s fleshed out to sublimate existential thoughts, perhaps paying homage to artists such as Lacuna Coil. It’s got that headbang-worthy section going for it, while “Black Leather Brock” sees Avekn unhinged yet resolute as songwriters. They can pile on blastbeat-fed riffs and terrifying growls as well as Breaking Benjamin-esque rhythms. A worthy start that’s not necessarily buffet metal.
Vian Fernandes – Half Life
Toying with questions of existence and how we make our lives worthwhile, vocalist, bassist and rock/metal artist Vian Fernandes grows up a little bit on his third solo album Half Life. The MC-bassist for Kerala fusion act Thaikkudam Bridge and formerly of death metal band Infernal Wrath, Fernandes explores spacey prog (“Genesis,” “To Be With Me”) in the vein of Dream Theater (the flute-aided “A World Undone”) and more emotive songwriting than ever before (“When I’m Gone”). As much as there’s Pink Floyd worship heard throughout (“My Northern Star,” “Answers to My Life”), Fernandes is at his strongest with the blazing, groovy song “ADHD,” expanding in all directions but never spreading himself too thin, with help from guitarist Pradeep Pande, vocalist Gazal Mohanty and more.
Ash Roy – Khemikal EP
Following his 2020 EP Tesseract, Berlin-based Indian techno stalwart Ash Roy created his newest record Khemikal entirely in lockdown in Germany. Khemikal is mystical and otherworldly in many ways, first heard in its cavernous title track. Roy also injects sharp and hazy elements on “Fight Back,” whose vocal hook is delivered in a robotic voice. It makes a lot of the seven-track EP seem futuristic and (just like Tesseract) not really impacted by the fact that Roy probably hasn’t been playing at clubs or festivals for a while owing to the pandemic. “Silky Way” unravels like a heavy-hitter, while “Serpents Tale” is much more urgent with its corrupted, spiraling synth patterns and “Flying Mango” would send any club dancefloor into total euphoria.