#ReviewRundown: September 2020
We round up the newest records in Indian indie, including post-rock band Hitherto, singer-songwriters such as Stella Ramola, Soham Mallick and Banat, plus metallers The Abel Projekt
Hitherto – Hitherto.
Meant to be consumed as an audio-visual experience, New Delhi instrumental rock project Hitherto’s debut self-titled EP brings together the moody songwriting of Arsh Goswami and the cerebral art of Shrey Kathuria. If you have the means, the five-track record is best enjoyed with the lights turned down and as big a screen as possible to imbibe the themes of journeying. Hitherto starts steadily with “I Won’t Be Long” and enters all-out atmospheric spaces on “Opioids Make My Brain Slow,” which deliberately melt away in a detuned fashion. “Evacuate” offers straight-up crescendo-friendly post-rock, “Her Voice Was Static” amps up to a heavier spectrum and “Inertia” is the expected yet enjoyable EP closer.
Soham Mallick – Bookmark
New Delhi singer-songwriter Soham Mallick has been wont to sing in Hindi with rock band Moongphali and even in Bengali, but it’s with his debut solo EP Bookmark that we see him take on English with equal ease and flourish. Introspective songs like “Fault” take the vibrant alt-rock route, while the title track also shows off Mallick’s guitar prowess, which is understated but tasteful, going over stirring string arrangements. He pours soul all over three tracks on Bookmark, including the super wistful “Petrichor,” which recalls early 2000s pop-rock in the vein of Goo Goo Dolls. Bet on Bookmark if you want a heartfelt record that bears the stamp of finessed songwriting.
Banat – Flish
Traversing prog, intelligent pop and even classical bridges, Mumbai singer-songwriter Banat truly seems to know within herself the importance of reinvention, on her new EP Flish. With Yash Rohra on bass and drummer Siddhi Shah, there’s a Porcupine Tree-esque reverie that is “Taabir” and it effortlessly flows into the dark, mostly instrumental “Ode,” which bears another transformation to prep our ears for “Your Vancouver,” a frigid, jazz-inflected pop song on which Banat’s vocals shapeshift. The final two tracks, “For the Child in You” and “Flish” sees Banat at the piano, bringing out baroque pop that is whimsical yet somewhat ominous, making Flish a remarkable listen that just can’t be pinned down.
Stella Ramola – Journey
When you’re a singer who’s explored range since childhood in the Christian and gospel music space, it pays to still consider pushing oneself. Stella Ramola, part of a family of musicians in Chennai, released her debut Tamil album in 2014 Velichem Thedi and now there’s another full-length – the eight-track Journey – comprising English songs very much in the shimmering, multi-genre singer-songwriter sphere. Although definitely meant for those of faith (Christian or otherwise), Stella breaks away from being neatly categorized due to the sonic treatment on Journey, her sublime voice breathing conviction into rock ballads (“Rest In You”), vibrant electro-pop (“Smilin’,” “Make It Alright”), nostalgic disco (“Heaven”), groovy funk (“Magnified”) and galloping rock (“I Will Fly”).
The Abel Projekt – Stories Of An Abstract Mind
Mumbai metal band The Abel Projekt’s debut album Stories Of An Abstract Mind flew under a few radars when it released in June, but with wider distribution on streaming platforms more recently, they thrust themselves into the spotlight with imposing, chaotic metal. The nine-track, hour-long record has its moments of scurrying guitar work that boggles the mind (“Beginning To An End,” “Dying Of The Light”) and songs that have been kicking around for about eight years. If you dig the intense, likely-to-overwhelm style of bands like New Delhi’s Undying Inc or even American instrumental act Cloudkicker, The Abel Projekt offers everything you need. There’s some jarring moments on the vocal front (“Neon Genesis”), but they more than make up for it with riffs aplenty (the wide-as-canyons “Children Of The Hive,” total franticness on “Genrusai” and the closing pair “4000” and “5000”), which pushes Stories Of An Abstract Mind into a laborious listen but also clearly a labor of love.