Archive for November, 2009

30
Nov
09

Music Review: Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongleland

Artist: “Shpongle”

Album: “Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongleland” (2009)

If you already got shpongled long ago, there might be a sense of dread accompanying the excitement with which you will approach this album. The reason for my cynicism was clear – where could they go after Nothing Lasts…But Nothing Is Lost?

Electroplasm, though lilting, does little to reassure or prepare one for the musical experience that is Shpongle, and equally unconvincing is Shponglese Spoken Here. Great electronic music with classical guitar, but it’s the kind of stuff that needs visuals to help you into it. What are music videos for, yeah?

Good stuff follows – Nothing Is Something Worth Doing and Ineffable Mysteries are the songs that reinstate why Shpongle is so bloody awesome. Unless any of you from the shpongled lot haven’t heard “music” before, Nothing Is Something Worth Doing should remind you of a classic Metallica song off the …And Justice For All album. Keep guessing till the end of time, losers.

Having been a listener of Raja Ram’s work with 1200 Micrograms, and a fan of Simon Posford’s Hallucinogen (I loved both Twisted and The Lone Deranger…Goa Trance!!!), it’s stunning to see where these guys have taken themselves.

The electronic wizardry finally overpowers me with I Am You, and you’ll be glad the song stretches past 11 minutes. The best thing about this album is it doesn’t try to live up to expectations fans of Shpongle have, makes no effort to match up to Are You Shpongled? or Tales Of The Inexpressible, and therein lies its strength and force.

Boys can raise their ugly bald heads and hail their favourite Shpongle album as the band’s greatest work and girls can sway their child-bearing hips with full righteousness, but as Invisible Man In A Flourescent Suit, No Turn Un-Stoned and Walking Backwards Through The Cosmic Mirror (psytrance, baby!) make themselves comfortable before me between a fresh morning and a lazy afternoon on a Sunday, I can tell you this is the most clever psybient music that’s come out in awhile.

VERDICT

Shpongle have almost always taken things a notch up with every step in their career, and with Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongleland they pay no attention to all the hype that anything they created would generate, and have given the most mature album from their glowing discography. Hard to believe, impossible to deny.

RATING: 4/5

29
Nov
09

Buddha

Photography by Janak Samtani

28
Nov
09

Movie Review: Tum Mile (2009)

-by Devdutt Nawalkar

Film:  “Tum Mile” (2009)

Director: “Kunal Deshmukh”

Actors: “Emraan Hashmi”, “Soha Ali Khan”

Emraan Hashmi is a strange one. He looks like someone who eats Brittania sliced bread and Kissan ketchup for breakfast but his movies manage to hold my ADD-riddled mind’s attention to a fair extent. He’s not a great actor by any stretch of the imagination but there is a certain mystifying quantity about the Serial Kisser that makes it well nigh impossible to hate him. I have seen a few of his movies without uprooting the scant remains of my rapidly denuding scalp, though going by the prolonged detours to the crapper that Bollywood’s been taking of late, that dubious compliment is more flummery than anything else. Regardless, I like Emraan Hashmi because he comes in and does his thing without bullshit histrionics. I put much stock in the mediocrely competent.

Tum Mile is a story of love, ensuing obstacles, and reconciliation, against the overarching backdrop of a natural calamity that I suspect to be the July 26, 2005 flood in Bombay. Directed by Kunal Deshmukh, it stars the delectably bushy-browed Soha Ali Khan and hogger-in-chief of the review opening, Emraan Hashmi, in the lead roles. The movie opens with the Bombay meteorological department forecasting, belatedly of course, a severe storm headed for town (On a tangent, is it just me or does the met dept. seem like it’s being worked out of the back of an Udipi joint?). Cut to an airplane headed for Bombay and we are introduced to our protagonists; Akshay (Hashmi) and Sanjana (Khan), who seem to share an awkward past and spend time exchanging furtive glances and inconsequential nothings. The movie narrates its story in a reverse chronological fashion using frequent cutbacks to the past to explain what’s gone on between the two. Lost, anyone?

Akshay was a struggling artist in Cape Town, South Africa (hurray! Another location sabotaged by Bollywood towards the unholy end of embarassing as many expats as possible) who met and fell in love with rich girl Sanjana. They courted, the dalliance taking up quite a bit of the movie’s time, moved in, and started playing house in fair fashion. Of course, all-conquering Mammon had to poke his green nose in the middle of conjugal bliss. Akshay fell on hard times, unable to whore out his vision and artistic integrity, and generally grew to be an unpleasant grump. To make matters worse, his muse deserted him at the most inopportune of times as well. Lovely, sacrificng Sanjana offered to help him out with her daddy’s money which obviously rankled Akshay something fierce. Their relationship soured over the constant bickering and ego massaging. They subsequently went their seperate ways when opportunity knocked for Akshay in faraway Australia and he, in the manner of all great chauvinists, expected Sanjana to pack up after him and come smother his bread with tomato sauce Down Under.

Cut to the present, which is 6 years after the events in South Africa, and the storm’s got a thing in for Bombay. The two, by happenstance, have some business in the city, and are caught unawares in the maelstrom. Sanjana’s the damsel in distress, and Akshay’s her knight in soaking armour. You get the drift. There’s nothing like a disaster for star-crossed lovers to work out their difference and assume the convivial pose again. There are nods to The Perfect Storm, The Day After Tomorrow, and Titanic – in other words, the holy trinity of cheese. There’s a bit of gratuitous killing too; Akshay’s friend Vivek, with a loving, docile wife back home, is popped off for no good reason. But I’m always up for some senseless deaths so it’s all good.

I hope that you, reader, don’t care that I’ve given out the whole story. Idhar kuch naya nahi hai, aage chalo..

Hashmi is competent without being stellar. Soha Ali Khan is one of the more promising actresses out there. She’s peppy when needed and does the serious bits to the hilt as well. Music’s not exceptional which is a bit of a let down considering that this is a Mahesh Bhatt ripoff..er, production and that his movies usually have a couple of nice tunes.

This isn’t a great movie or anything. I haven’t the slightest idea why I’m even writing this thing. But I will say that my brain’s reasonably unscathed, and that I won’t go to bed with my scalp flaming red. Another factor that may have figured into my benevolence is that I was one of the many trapped out in the city on that fateful day four years ago. I was in a completely strange locale in New Bombay, having joined a new job, and I spent nearly twenty hours bedraggled, trying to hitch my way back home and, in general, fearing for my life. No exaggeration that; there were times when I was inside cars and the water was upto the windshields and there were times when I was wading through chest high garbage. Terrifying and unforgettable.

27
Nov
09

Music Review: World

-by Devdutt Nawalkar

Artist – “Gigantic Brain”

Album – “World” (2009)

Back in the early days, Gigantic Brain used to be a ridiculously clumsy one-man project of a certain John Brown from Virgina, U.S. His music got labelled ‘cybergore’ or ‘cybergrind’ or something like that. What it really did sound like was a grind soundtrack to your favourite Atari game from twenty years ago, an evolutionary misstep caused by unethical breeding between the monster boss at the end of the Contra arcade games and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was lo-fi, sloppy as all fuck yet insanely catchy, fuzzed out drum-machine fueled goregrind probably done by a balding single guy with a protruding gut and a bong for best friend. But it did have its charms, not unlike those present in a particularly fat girlfriend. Sure, you emerge from a bout of fucking feeling silly and slightly repulsed, but it’s great while it lasts; there’s plenty to explore, grope and lose yourself in. And you can always ask for seconds since there’s so much to go around. Now imagine that the fat girlfriend is also a sci-fi nerd with a penchant for dressing up as Princess Leia though she really resembles Jabba The Hut and that she has a certified mean streak which sees her strapping and subjecting you to unmentionable trespasses. That, in essence, was the Gigantic Brain I remember from The Invasion Discography (2004).

The Gigantic Brain of today bears little resemblance to that entity. I’m not very familiar with the post-rock/metal genre so I won’t take any liberties in drawing references. But it does seem like Brown has whole-heartedly embraced the sparse, ambient ethic of that particular strain of music and made it his own. Gone are most of the crazy, binary-odes to video games and invading monsters from foreign dimensions. In their place are soothing, almost meditative yet somewhat melancholic, synth-driven instrumentals that seem to have a running thread through the album. This music would not sound unseemly as the score to movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, or, more recently, Moon. Or the upcoming Ubik, for that matter (I can’t wait to see how they screw it up. Fuck your eyes, Hollywood). There is an epicness about it, an almost requiem-like quality that laments the passing of a simpler time, and a hesitancy to see in a more impersonal, technologically-driven age.

All’s not lost for fans of the band’s earlier sound though. There are a few harkbacks to what brought Gigantic Brain to the party in the first place – short, lacerating bursts of grind designed to blow windows but these are almost always infused with the newfound contemplative aesthetic. It may have sounded disjointed in lesser hands but Brown’s improved songwriting sees it through and highlights the juxtapositions between past and future mentioned earlier.

Comparisons could be drawn to Devin Townsend’s solo work and the Ocean Machine album. There are also a fair few nods to industrial and techno, admittedly genres I’m not overly fond of. But Gigantic Brain incorporates it sparingly and only within the context of the album’s theme, much like how Alienation Mental used it on Ballspouter.

Gigantic Brain’s sound has changed drastically and old fans may find it a bit unpalatable if they’re expecting more of the same. While I love the earlier stuff, I find ‘World‘ a much more involving and, ultimately, enjoyable album. Check it out if you like pop, ambient, etc, and if you can stand to ignore a few minutes of metallic grinding.

Music Review: Farseeing The Paranormal Abysm

27
Nov
09

Farewell, UJ

July 20, 1987 – November 26, 2009

26
Nov
09

The Greater Of Two Evils

Dec 02, 2008

Terrorism has cast a shroud over the city of Bombay (not Mumbai, no), and its people have forgotten how to smile. Everything’s so gloomy, the sad Doordarshan tune would go really well with it. A big deal is being made out of Ram Gopal Varma visiting the site of carnage, probably because he will make a realistic film from whatever he absorbs from the remains of the hotel. As long as the movie doesn’t have Urmila Matondkar, I don’t see why people should complain. There’s a movie made on 9/11 and pretty much every other such tragic event, so let’s not pull this man up for doing what any filmmaker worth his pepper would.

Of course, I wasn’t expecting any of our politicians to barge inside the Oberoi and do anything fancy. I wasn’t expecting them to hide under their beds, either. Like a lot of other people, I didn’t exactly have a soft corner for the lot, but my loathing has reached a new level after watching them spout piles of arse on news channels. All the hooligans who were making noise and staking claim to Bombay (nope, still not Mumbai) by performing silly rituals like pelting stones at lifeless bus-stops and burning pink buses, have been squatting at home, perhaps wondering how they developed another ass-crack.

Forget saving Mumbai (I write it that way on my postal address) from the baddie outsiders (they came from outside outside), they didn’t offer our heroic outsiders snacks or even a glass of water. Maybe they’re saving it for some pretentious pooja which will screw the city in a righteous way. It’s okay now, boys…you can come out from under the bed and continue enjoying your zhunka bhakar.

My pretty girlfriend (who hates pink buses being set afire) has threatened me with dire consequences if I don’t exercise my right to vote. But who do I vote for? Politicians should come with a label stating who the lesser evil is so I can vote the uncouth, illiterate idiot into power.

By the way, I can speak, read and write three languages fluently and have decided I don’t need to learn Marathi. If anyone has a problem with that, I’m ready to throw the first rock. Buzz off!

Coming soon…Fictional Reality

Posted by Aditya Mehta { 10 } Comments
[From my Buzz18 blog “Lashkar-E-Shaitan”]
25
Nov
09

Music Review: Farseeing The Paranormal Abysm

-by Devdutt Nawalkar

Artist: “The Chasm”

Album: “Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm”

Year: 2009

The Chasm are back after a 4 year hiatus with what could be the best record of their careers and a definitive monument in death metal echelons. The Spell of Retribution was The Chasm’s first and, unfortunately, last major label album, released under Earache’s Wicked World subsidiary which has since gone under. In a cruelly poetic yet unsurprising way, The Chasm are back to being underground pariahs without label backing. Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm has been put out under the band’s Lux Inframundis banner, and with a defiance reminiscent of the band’s earlier works, comes soaring out of the wretched pits of despair like the proverbial bird of misery, talons bloody and all.

The Spell of Retribution marked a definite twist in the band’s storytelling. While the sound remained much the same and evoked the patented lush stylings with plenty of arpeggiated chords, the band reined in their more primal instincts for a uniformly moodier, meandering, and instrumental attack. Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm is a natural evolution of that style, containing as many as four completely instrumental songs (Look no further for the band’s lack of mainstream appeal). The Chasm has always been a progressive band, one that takes the listener on aural journeys through vast, uninhabited soundscapes. But never has the band’s vision melted into such succinct realisation as here. Every song contains a multitude of emotions within, a feeling of sorrow being the overwhelming vibe that gradually finds release through controlled outbursts of rage. This is the sound of a band at the peak of their creative powers, a band that has found its niche and has steadily expanded it from within to own a gargantuan bit of death metal lore, past and present.

Daniel Corchado, the band’s main man (guitars/vocals) sings in a generally gruff, low register that has gradually usurped the more black metal-like aspects of his voice. His guitarwork is as quirky and inventive as ever. Never does he let his ego get the better of his considerable talents, always preferring the suggestive to the explicit. I can think of no other band, and, by conjunction, guitarist, that evokes as much foreboding and a sense of approaching calamity. And I don’t imply a caricaturish, romantic doom metal analogy either.

Corchado is complimented superbly by Julio Viterbo, and their work drips the atmosphere surrounding your stereo of all cheer and goodwill. They play off of each other, often playing completely disparate harmonies, yet the sum effect is far from jarring, and is the biggest reason why The Chasm have such a thick, rich feel about their music. This is made to order for repeat sessions, and I presume new things can be discovered lurking at every twist on every listen.

This is not an easy album to sit through. The songs are long, sprawling, often trancelike in their repetition, and seem to gleefully reject all modern conventions and structural norms. As mentioned earlier, there are 4 instrumentals, 3 of which average well over accepted notions of duration. Hooks are scattered aplenty, but are notoriously difficult to nail down. The album is meant to be listened to as an immersive experience, and demands one’s complete attention for the eventual payoff. The band assumes that their followers have the requisite patience and introspection to do justice to these hymns of death.

The band may describe themselves as ‘Metal of Death’, a very accurate epithet, I might add. But there’s no ambivalence around the fact that the driving force behind The Chasm is solid, traditional heavy metal. They’re surely not conventional death metal, and they’re no replicas of 80s traditional metal either. But their dirges have, and always have had, an eye for melody reminiscent of the old masters, and all too lacking in more modern death metal. There is real songcraft involved here, not just mindless brutality acting as release, or an unimaginative, atavistic retreading of past works masquerading as being “true”. A veteran, relevant, readily distinguishable extreme metal band is an altogether rare commodity these days. They should be cherished for the time that they’re together (And going by Viterbo’s kidney ailments, and the band relegating themselves to the studio for the most part, we’re all but counting down the grains). Sure, they don’t sell big. Sure, they are extremely hard listens for the average fan. Somehow, I get the feeling that the band’s never cared for lofty platitudes. They get it. And for the rest of us that do – we’re the lucky ones.




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