#ReviewRundown: January 2020
Our verdict on some of the freshest indie releases from across the country, featuring Thaikkudam Bridge, GreyFade, Visita, Staccato and Liquid Memoirs
GreyFade – Cardboard Pastries
Thane-based “punkcore” band GreyFade have the spunk of any band straight out of college, even now in their sixth year running and releasing their debut album Cardboard Pastries. There’s pros and cons of being in that songwriting space for the five member band. In one regard, they have the energy and wildness in experimenting with everything from Fred Durst-esque rap (“Click Bate Master Bait”) to Maharashtrian dhol rhythms (“Bleeding Gums,” which actually has a dhol version to close out the album) and djent chaos (“Cardboard Pastries”). But when you hear it all together in one shot, it really does sound like a misfire of too many ideas mashed together with not much cohesiveness, seemingly strung around only by breakdowns. It might help GreyFade to focus on each song separately.
Thaikkudam Bridge – Namah
Kochi fusion collective Thaikkudam Bridge’s long-anticipated second album is understood as a tribute to their heroes. Knowing how they sway from feel-good folk rock to menacing metal, Namah is quite the star-studded collab record. Over the span of an hour in 10 tracks, Thaikkudam Bridge’s mammoth, cinematic sound is heightened by heavyweights like prog band Dream Theater’s keyboardist Jordan Rudess (“Saalaikal,”) drummers like Chris Adler (facing off mridangam veteran Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman on the apocalyptic “Thekkini”) and rock trio The Aristocrats’ guitarist Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann (“I Can See You” and “Inside My Head,” respectively marking the first two English songs in the band’s catalog). Indian stalwarts such as Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Niladri Kumar, Rakesh Chaurasia, Ustad Rashid Khan and Ram Narayan add to the album’s starpower and horsepower, while former Avial vocalist Anandraj Benjamin Paul is at his hair-raising soulful best on “Kanne.”
Visita – Chronicles: Resolution
On the second part of his album Chronicles, Hyderabad composer-guitarist Visita aka Vivek Venugopal expands his sonic palette even further. Wandering out into fusion and jazz while still rooted in classical, Visita takes the themes of coping and recovering across four tracks featuring collaborators. Magdalena Sas adds mesmerizing string work (“Will You Complete Me?”), while “Tabula Rasa” moves between moods adeptly, with contrabass, duduk and piano. “Pathos” is moody as basslines confront Johnny Woodham’s trumpet over Biju Karthik (from Kochi band The Derelicts) dexterous drum work. “Harmony” is about as modern as it gets, as the flute leads. With Chronicles: Resolution, Visita is flexing composing versatility, with a little help from friends.
Staccato – Elay
Chennai multilingual band Staccato have played Carnatic music sabhas, hotel gigs, clubs, festivals and even the London Olympics in 2012. Their brand of contemporary classical is put on record on the seven-track Elay. While the cinematic sound rules for the most part on Elay, there’s occasionally surprising turns like on “Thuru Thuru” and the electro-rock laced “Nee Maatale.” The Hindi song “Saawan” is rooted in mellow folk, while “Elay” leads with playful, virtuoso violin solos and bass slaps. It’s a variety of moods and Indian folk and classical approaches with each track, which is what works best for an album. Staccato might eschew the term ‘fusion’ and on Elay they go just a bit further and achieve a hearty blend with something for everyone.
Liquid Memoirs – Oblivion
Residing in Kochi, ambient producer Amal Ramesh aka Liquid Memoirs released his debut album Oblivion last month, which was also supported by U.K. label Insight Music. Perhaps to a global audience, ambient music from Kerala might sound like something that’ll hit the right spot, there’s more to Oblivion than any fusion or gimmicks. The eight-track album is what every ambient record aspires to be – an enveloping listen that you hope shouldn’t end, evoking gentle synths that build up and sometimes reach a crescendo, with occasional twinkles of sound working their way in when you least expect it (“Ethereal,” “Repose.”) The swelling leads and layering makes Oblivion a record best heard from start to finish.