#ReviewRundown: June 2022
We tune in to the latest from New Delhi DJ-producer Film, Bengaluru metallers Illucia, singer-songwriter and producer Rushaki and more
That’s Not Self Help – Weak Neediness EP
In the niche within a niche that’s experimental jazz music in India, Gangtok-based guitarist-composer Josiah Ranpal’s project That’s Not Self Help exists and arguably, thrives. On the artist’s debut EP Weak Neediness, he hones in on a jazz-fusion, jazzcore sound a bit more compared to his more cacophonous 2021 demo. In the span of four songs and 10 minutes, the project dazzles (“Every Other Thought Must Mean Something,” “Say Something Personal or You’ll Be Wronged”) in a fleeting, fast-paced window of frenzied fretwork. Ranpal teams up with fellow Sikkimese experimentalist Chaman Singh (from the project Konflicts) for the closing title track, which sees the project at its most finessed and towering in terms of making a statement.
Illucia – A New Reign
Bengaluru’s heavy metal faithful have had a good run of bands to swear by compared to the rest of India and adding to the canon are Illucia. The trio – comprising vocalist Vineesh Venugopal, guitarist Nitin M. Charles and drummer Srivatsa Balaji – serve up some mighty riffs on their debut full-length album A New Reign. In a true nod to all the elements championed by bands like Iron Maiden (part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the Seventies and Eighties), there’s a fantasy concept narrative and plenty of incisive songwriting to go with it. Illucia are quick-footed (“Fateful Night”), haunting (“Clap of Thunder”), measured (“Slaves of the Land”) and sublime all the way through (“The Fortress of Gold”). There are some expected paths tread (“Hellucination,” “Walls of Desire”) but Illucia push through with gusto on A New Reign.
Film – Film
Among the most exciting electronic records out this year, New Delhi producer-DJ Film aka Sanil Sudan’s self-titled album is proof that there can be intricate, hypnotic music that can catalyze introspection and also stand on its own for the solid club-ready treatment. Film traverses techno, ambient, hip-hop and breakbeat, among other styles to arrive at a sound that he can resolutely claim as his own. Songs like “Call Me,” “As Above So Below,” “Drill Masala” and “Rush” escape easy compartmentalization, but then again songs like “DBRK” and “Discordia” are there to balance that out with their spectral presence. The producer’s intent to marry all kinds of narratives with his music also adds another dimension to the 13-track album, out via Qilla Records. “I’ve Always Liked Trance” deftly samples tabla, while “Formless” has a videogame cut-scene monologue worked into its eeriness. “1987” is drenched in funky soul patterns and “Second Self” squeaks with clarity. Even the album’s closing song “Mother” – created for Sudan’s late mother – is adorned with soulful yet wordless storytelling, until a moving quote from actor Keanu Reeves offers a final statement. Far from the dancefloor-ready electronic music, Film’s album occupies a space like no other in Indian music.
The Earth Below – The Earth Below
It’s been just over two years since Bengaluru-bred, Mumbai-based multi-instrumentalist artist The Earth Below aka Deepak Raghu released a record and out of nowhere, we have his self-titled new EP, complete with credits (“Dozzy Dosbourne on vocals”) that don’t shy away from his Black Sabbath allegiance. In that sense, there’s nothing groundbreaking on the four-track EP, but the drummer, guitarist and vocalist still has a ton of fun with stoner, doom and heavy metal riffs while he’s at it, best heard on urgent, fiery songs like “Ash and Iron” and the roomy “Ride the Sky.” A retro-futuristic synth phrase adds much-needed to the chugging riffs on “Children of the Vortex,” which plays it safe and his cover of American band The Obsessed’s “Red Disaster” is about as modern and finessed as The Earth Below gets, seemingly drawing from acts like Kyuss.
Killa K – From the Cave
Bengaluru-based rapper Killa K aka Kevin Lourd builds on the joyous, identity-consolidating hip-hop of his 2021 single “Va Voi” with his debut full-length album From the Cave. Beatsmiths like Shaq-T, Kavan, Rahul K.F. and 24K Beats supply unshakeable bops for Killa K’s snarling Tamil and English rap across 11 tracks. While Killa K can pack his own punch (“Inge,” the kuthu-blazed “Renuka”), collaborators include Vajra (the boisterous “India 2 Malaysia”) Nigavithran (the drill cut “Madras”) and Mavind Blaze (“She Like What I Give”), among others. Some of Killa K’s cadence and sonic choices might sound like he’s restricting himself, but then songs like “080” and “Zone” change things up, with the menacing Kannada rappers A.V.P. and Kali, and latter featuring multilingual rapper SID18 in fine form. Killa K even gets super emo on “Another Day,” which arrives just in time to showcase vulnerability.
Rushaki – She Speaks
Pune-bred singer-songwriter and producer Rushaki Ghosh (who goes by her first name as an artist) shows us exactly what happens when you start journaling but in a pretty creative way. Teaming up with New Delhi producer Bharg Kale for her debut album She Speaks, there are realizations, confrontations and truth-bombs all together. Although electronic pop (“Wait Till Tomorrow”) and trip-hop (“Icarus,” “Devil Kid”) are the predominant spaces, there are standout hip-hop cuts like “Easy” and “Begin.” The artists push on in that direction and blend styles on “All In My Head,” in which Rushaki comes down pretty hard on herself. Grandiosity comes right toward the end, on “Breathe Again” and the wonky title track. She Speaks is inward-looking at proverbial demons but it’s not without universal messages for anyone looking for evil yet delectable bops.