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#ReviewRundown: March 2021

This month, we review new records put out by ambient artist Eashwar Subramanian, Malayalam fusion act Project Malabaricus, hip-hop artists such as Drastic and Naman, prog rock band Winterchild and classical-meets-extreme metal act Friends From Moon

Anurag Tagat Mar 25, 2021
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Eashwar Subramanian – Arctic Bloom

★★★½

Among the myriad experiments in ambient music crafted by Bengaluru producer Eashwar Subramanian, Arctic Bloom is a serene and certainly escapist aural offering from the artist. Where Subramanian stands out is in dabbing into a palette of sounds that he’s distinctly championed for a few years now. While there’s gentle layers lightly splashing against each other on the opening title track, emotional woodwinds lead on “Silent Woods,” high-pitched synths meander on the cinematic “Shepherds of Yore,” and there’s an even more dramatic turn on “The Bedouin.” Subramanian digs into a violin lead with elan and soulful intent on “A Lifetime of Togetherness.” All in all, yet another transportive listen from the ambient artist.

Friends from Moon – The Spectator

★★★

Once you’ve heard progressive death metal from the likes of Opeth, chances are, you’d be intrigued by the intersection of sprawling orchestral elements and relentless blast beats. It feels like that’s where guitarist-composer Ritwik Shivam’s formative influences lie, with his project Friends From Moon’s debut EP The Spectator. Bookended by two string section-led instrumental pieces (“A Hope Forever” and “We are the Drifters”), Shivam proves he has a solid handle on writing enchanting music as well as he does with rumbling, unsparing prog-inflected extreme metal and symphonic metal, aided by Italian multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Gabriele Paolo Marra aka Howling In The Fog (on “Saruman the Black”) and ace growler Pritam Goswami Adhikary on “Salton Sea.” It’s metal for all seasons.

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Naman – Bloom & Blister

★★★½

New York-born Indian-origin artist Naman Patel (who goes by his first name) brings heavy artillery and braggadocio to go with it on his 12-track debut EP Bloom & Blister. Taking stock of loved ones, his personal upheavals and triumphs, Naman builds upon beats by producer Kid Hani in a sublime style on tracks like “Type O” and “Indigo.” Brampton rapper Spitty adds real menace on “Don’t Miss” while “Takeover” gets a more major nod with Hindi rap from Navambar and production by Kahani. Naman is a straight-shooter throughout the rest of the record, moving through styles (“Wholesome,” “Somerville”) and flows to make sure he covers as much ground as possible for a successfully weighty debut.

Winterchild – Endless Dream EP

★★★

After plenty of initial groundwork done in the covers and tribute night circuit in Bengaluru and across India, Winterchild step into their own on their first EP Endless Dream. Vocalist Avishek Dasgupta gives his breathy best version of the archetypical rock singer, while keyboardist Arjun Menon and guitarist Arijit Dey pull their weight in terms of sprightly lead melodies. Drummer Antariksh Pandey and bassist Siddharth Singh (stepping in with help from Noel D’Gama) ensure that Winterchild stays on the proggy end of rhythmic patterns. While some of the production leaves us wanting, songs like “Endless Dream,” “A Prayer For Light” surge forward, while “Voyage To Horizon’s End” aims for arena-level prog and “Empty Song” makes for a moody, sing-along addition to the stacked EP.

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Drastic – Drastic Darkness Death EP

★★★½

Portraying himself as a lone wolf of sorts, Hindi hip-hop artist Drastic aka Subham Verma keeps it raw and as open-hearted as possible on his debut EP Drastic Darkness Death. The Siliguri-bred rapper goes nearly beat-less on “Afwaa” and provides an unfiltered introduction on “Maa/Drastic.” But then there’s surprisingly buoyant beats and samples for “Sazaa” with fellow Siliguri rapper JAW aka Akash Tripathi and “Bidhya.” It’s half-melancholy and half-morbid by the time we get to “Pyara Maut,” released as a stand-alone single by JAW and MC Trip. When it’s his turn on the mic, Drastic keeps emotion on his side but also technique, which shows throughout Drastic Darkness Death.

Project Malabaricus – Rithu EP

★★★½

Although it’s just three tracks, that’s more than enough to showcase the prowess of a star singer such as Sithara Krishnakumar, part of Malayalam fusion act Project Malabaricus’ debut EP Rithu. There’s exuberant, catchy rock that leads on “Arutharuthu,” which packs in a lot in four and a half minutes, and Krishnakumar is more cozy on the subtle, folksy “Chayapattu.” On the third and final track of Rithu, “Pilleranu,” there’s swerving riffs, grand arrangements, screaming guitar leads and electronic-folk elements akin to Kerala rock forerunners Avial, all of which make for a riveting listen every time. If you needed any more proof of how versatile, accessible and heavy Malayalam modern music can be, it’s contained within 12 whirlwind minutes on Rithu.

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