#ReviewRundown: June 2020
Our verdict on the latest releases from singer-songwriter Suraj Mani, electro-rock act Karajimo, prog band Dark Light, producer Toymob and rock artist Kaafir
Karajimo – Lunar Howl
Once the sun goes down, Karajimo comes out to play. New Delhi-based guitarist, vocalist and producer Viraj Mohan was all about prog/psych bands such as Tool when he fronted rock act Another Vertigo Rush, but with Karajimo – which has been around for about a decade – it’s more in the electro-rock direction. On his debut album Lunar Howl, Karajimo show full conviction in creating machinic, industrial rock sounds (“One Giant Step,” “The Abyss”) that veer into prog, psychedelic and electronic spaces with total ease. Opening with the suspenseful title track, vocalist Abhishek Bhatia picks things up on the rap-crossover (with Shizty and Crost) on “Pushing Through” and brings his familiar croon (from experimental rock band The Circus) on “Cataclysm.” There’s an ominous addition with “Lost” (featuring SundogProject’s Rahul Das and vocalist Abhinaina Bhatia), plus multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale and producer-guitarist Keshav Dhar getting dexterous groovy on “Monster,” elevating Lunar Howl to a hypnotic listen.
Suraj Mani – Rinse and Repeat EP
It was in 2012 that Bengaluru-based singer-guitarist Suraj Mani launched his debut solo album The Tattva Trip, a deeply soul-searching record that would perhaps guide many. Mani – the former frontman of Kochi-based rock greats Motherjane – formed his own band and toured the country for several years, but Rinse and Repeat is the next collection of songs, appearing nearly eight years and a few singles later. Mani plays to his strengths as a musing, introspecting protagonist across four tracks, over tabla and acoustic guitar-led songs like the worn-out “Rinse and Repeat,” the excitable “Sacred Ground” (which is great for that surprisingly ace Carnatic vocalizing) and a philosophical spoken word closer “Samsara.” There’s a familiar Motherjane-esque croon on the elegiac “La Petite Mort,” which pulls Rinse and Repeat out of plain-old territory into an EP that proves Mani can – even on his own – be an important balladeer in India.
Dark Light – In Space and Time
At this juncture in the vastly crowded progsphere, bands can perhaps be broadly classified in two – the ones jacked up on chaos pills who can throw all sort of manic rhythmic patterns at you, and the guitar solo-relying bands who want their craft on show, especially when it comes to building up from mellow to soaring. Bengaluru’s Dark Light are definitely the latter on their debut album In Space and Time. Songs like “Satellite” and “Circles” concern themselves mostly with sprawling soundscapes, but the more tightly-wound “Planet Goodbye” and moody “Mountain Boy” offer a spectral glimpse of stand-out songwriting. It’s a rewarding listen if you stick with it, as is most good progressive rock.
Toymob – Khor EP
Up near the hills near Nainital in Uttarakhand, producer-singer Toymob aka Ashhar Farooqui seems to have spent his quarantine period writing some kind of sonic horror story. Known for his work with electronica duo Teddy Boy Kill as well as Donn Bhat + Passenger Revelator and alternative duo IJA, Toymob seems to be an oulet for all kinds of synth dreams and nightmares for Farooqui. “Antigroove,” “Post Love,” “Pran Kho” all lead listeners into a weird, spooky space, but then the blips and glitches of synth appear on “Fukit,” minus any vocals we’d been hearing all this while. “Vaada” employs buoyant effects and swelling synth, probably the only thing you can remotely call a dance track.
Kaafir – Crosswords
New Delhi-bred and a doctor by profession, Ishan Mishra aka Kaafir channels his love for rock across eras on his debut release Crosswords. Although he’s released a few Hindi songs, Crosswords sees Kaafir as an eloquent and effortless English songwriter as well, with production assists coming from drummer Anupam Panda and guitarist Viz Sharma. The only drawback might be the lack of a punchy production value – songs like “Oceans of Clouds” and “Pictures” deserve to be louder and certainly could have been more impactful with live drums. “Half a Love Song” hits the bittersweet spot but “Rusted” saves Crosswords from being just another rock record, offering dreamy yet angsty arrangements.