#ReviewRundown: July 2021
We check out the latest albums and EPs from Midhaven, Alboe, Avanti Nagral and more
Avanti Nagral – Double Standards EP
Avanti Nagral carries forward her affable and poised nature from YouTube and social media into her debut EP Double Standards. Often providing affirmations and inspiration through her vlogs and previous singles, Nagral’s four-track EP — co-written with ace songwriter and pop artist Natania Lalwani – concerns itself with insecurities growing up (“Jealous”), body positivity (“Imperfect,” featuring Chennai/Toronto singer-songwriter Kevin Fernando) and consent (the suitably steamy yet educative “Permission”). With an assist from producer Austin Armstrong, Nagral calls out inequities and discrimination women face, heaping praise on every woman who fights back on “Double Standards,” closing off a focused yet fun-loving pop record.
Midhaven – Of the Lotus & the Thunderbolt
After about seven years on the sidelines of the scene, Mumbai metallers Midhaven return with more urgency and intensity than ever before on their second full-length album Of the Lotus & the Thunderbolt. Steeped in a pot of philosophy, spirituality and metaphysics, the trio’s riffs, growls and piercing melodies bubble at a pace that’s hulking (“Codeman”) and meditative (“The Immanent Effervescence of Sorrow,” “Bhairav”) in turns. “Para Brahman” starts off ruthlessly visceral and “Primal Song” piles it on. Hints of their 2014 album Spellbound appear on the gargantuan penultimate track “Mahakaal.” The opus – in intent, heaviness and length – remains “Zhitro,” a grandiose salute that takes from stoner/prog bands like Mastodon as well as French metallers Gojira, making Of the Lotus & the Thunderbolt one of the slickest releases in Indian metal this year.
Alboe – The Painter
Completing a concept record which has been in the making for more than four years, producer, singer-songwriter and DJ Alboe aka Vedant Chandra gathers ideas based around synesthesia for his debut full-length album The Painter. Dabbing a bit of deep house, ambient and synth-inflected electronic tunes, the 10-track album is at its most accessible when Alboe himself leads on vocals (the dancefloor-friendly “Gin N Tonic”) as well as with guest vocalists like Prachi Kapil (“One Night Painting”) and Megha Lama (“Red”). While The Painter claims to traverse downcast as well as elevating emotions, most of the album is still very much upbeat, save for the slowly unraveling “White.” Alboe’s production cuts through incisively on The Painter, balancing soulful songwriting with dreamy beats.
Formidable Hate Machine – Inception of textured audio violence
Black metal band Antakrit’s rageaholic vocalist Siba aka Telal Xul and producer-guitarist Rohit Raghupathy aka RR proudly claim with their new industrial metal project Formidable Hate Machine (FHM) that they “made the lockdown productive.” Distorted, digital drum beats and overbearing guitar chugs are the pulse of their debut album Inception of textured audio violence. Gravelly walls of sound run at an imposing space on songs like “Recliner,” while noisy synths rule on “Empty Chaos.” True to their aim of being inspired by British industrial metal pioneers Godflesh, songs like “Unclaimed” and “Love. Earth. Fornication” are bruisers. They take the metallic treatment to two covers as well, first with a chaotic adaptation of Motorhead’s “Orgasmatron” featuring deep growls from vocalist Rust Hammer aka Varun Sharma. Then there’s a molten metal salute to Assamese folk singer Jayanta Hazarika, taking his song “Xurat Mogon Bhoyal Rati” to horrifying depths. Metal in India continues to diversify and FHM are proof of it.
Yanchan – The Scarborough Beat Tape
On the back of his work with Tamil-Canadian artist Shan Vincent de Paul – especially the viral “Mirthangam Raps” series – producer Yanchan has positioned himself as a Carnatic hip-hop artist. His collection of songs released in May – called The Scarborough Beat Tape – is a shapeshifting journey through his multicultural roots as well as his diverse music influences. “STC,” “Kennedy Station,” “Scarborough” and “East Town” introduce predominantly hip-hop sounds, while “Bluffs” and “Ammama’s Interlude” are dreamy in a Radiohead-esque fashion. Seamless sampling experiments like “Military Trail” would catch Tamil and rap fans’ attention. The bops don’t stop through the 15-minute tape, which proves Yanchan can do most of it all with dexterity.
Youngg Natee – Youngg & Ambitiou$
Shillong’s 18-year-old rapper Youngg Natee taps producers Yugi Beats and Naki Infinity for a swirling, aspirational collection of songs that serves as his debut EP, released via Meghalaya label MOX. On “California Dreaming,” Natee pivots over and over until perhaps the listener’s head is spinning, in a good way. With every verse, Youngg & Ambitiou$ carries determination with decent conviction. Mirroring artists like Drake (“213,” “So Bad”) and more, the pop-inflected sound of Youngg Natee is yet to gain the depth that hip-hop in India so sorely needs. For starters, he could look beyond sugary posturing (“Givenchy”) and tap into the grittier side heard in the first two songs.