Tag Archives: Asad Khan

Epic Shit by Sanjeev Thomas


Sanjeev Thomas is one of those talented composers who you’ve barely heard of but whose music you’ve been jigging to on a regular basis. He’s been a Bollywood bigwig, lending himself to titles like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Jhoota Hi Sahi and Rockstar– and before all the elitists out there begin to scrunch their noses to dismiss him, it should be told that he plays guitar for A.R. Rahman too. He started out as an independent musician – some of his bands include Buddha’s Babies and Buddha Blown (five points if you can point out a thematic similarity) and more recently he headed the Chennai-based rock lineup Rainbow Bridge. With the album Epic Shit, Sanjeev T is back to his origins as an independent musician, so don’t be expecting a Rahman-style orchestral setup or Bollywood-esque catch-and-throw moments.

Epic Shit is hardly forgettable. The sound production is pristine. With minimal effort on your part, each note impresses itself like an ant burning under a magnifying glass. Technical excellence is all too obvious – this is unsurprising because Baiju Dharmajan has studded the album with his string-play. In the album, Thomas synthesizes the Carnatic sound-laced prog-tones popularized by Motherjane and Avial, and does a solid job of fortifying the genre. However, while an incredibly pleasurably listen, Epic Shit falls a few breaths short of the ‘epicness’ it claims.

It is not that the songs aren’t inspired. They each have a clear quality of narration which I find shamefully missing from a substantial portion of contemporary releases. ‘Chekele’ speaks of the adverse conditions of the peasants of Kerala to Baiju’s exquisite melodic formations and the vocals mix quality which is like a tribute but with a somber aspect. The song, a version of which was also performed by Avial, seems not to lament but rather to exalt the inherent struggle. ‘Electric Pranaam’, definitely my favorite track, features more engaging riffs and rhythmic sequences. An instrumental piece, it reminds one of Baiju’s Motherjane moments and the beat-boxing injects a refreshingly prog aspect. Asad Khan’s sitar, though sparingly present is, as usual, invigorating. This is the song I put on repeat precisely because of its examination of the contemporaneity of apparently traditional Indian sounds. An expression of morning respect to the Gods of music, it abounds in variations of count, tempo and consequently, sentiment – think movement from serenity to energetic build-up to a sense of reconciliation. ‘Zamzayo’, matches ‘Electric Pranaam’ in ingenuity, but in its lyrical aspect. A song about pride and faith in one’s abilities when isolated, it features gems like “Curtain calls/She applauds/Fade out slow and….can’t find my way/To that shining day”. The musical schema is simple but haunting, accentuating the lyrical effect of a pleasing nonchalance towards extraneous concerns – a fitting song to shut out the world with.

‘Palli Vaathil’ has an unmatched ‘local’ scent. A Keralite folk song of Catholic lineage, it retains a lilting, lounge-ish flow that builds into an edge of frenzy. The flute and raging vocals (Sayanora) stand out, but the banjo, though muted, speaks volume of Santhosh Chandran’s obvious skill.

When it starts out, ‘Feel Me Now’ has a bit of a Portishead sensibility. Apparently basic lyrics belie a complex thematic understanding. Speaking, or attempting to speak of a collective human perceptibility, a sort of psychological or sentimental core that all human comprehension responds to, the song features a psychedelic musical ethic, peppering it with Warren Mendosa’s surreptitiously emphatic guitar. Like its topic, the music has a quality that is juxtapositional – the quintessential post-Floyd atmospheric tunes mixed with a gentle high synth. To me, ‘Feel Me Now’ requires more than a couple of listens, but it is a memorable track, with a little effort.

‘Mixed Emotions’ is all about sensual appreciation. With the tap guitar skills of Achyuth, it expresses appreciation for individual emotional and intellectual maturity through introspective experience. ‘Purple Lie’ sings along the same vein, but advocates the exploring of the possibilities of an expanded mind – an acid trip mashing information and emotion. To me, it isn’t entirely farfetched to conceive of this song as a culmination of the exhortations sung of in ‘Mixed Emotions’.

The thing about Epic Shit is that while it seems flawless, it falls short of being awe-inspiring. There are very few moments that make you sit up, take notice, re-wind and try to pick it up. Baiju’s style is easily discernible, but I prefer him in The Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate or Motherjane. A bit more of Asad Khan and Roop Thomas (Blakc) wouldn’t have hurt either.  The album ends up being pleasant and entertaining, but needs to tread a few more steps to be considered brilliant.

What does boggle the mind (in a good way, of course) is the album art. Created by a group of artists called Wow Makers, it gives the likes of The Bicycle Days (Calamitunes) and T.L.Mazumdar (BUeC) a run for their money. Intensely symbolic, it visualizes the fusion the album aims at. Nature plus humanity plus an eye of serendipity allows for a plethora of interpretations, much the songs, though I would give the art an edge over the music.

Nonetheless, the album is worth a listen. It epitomizes the burgeoning popularity of Carnatic laced prog and more importantly, is a testament to Sanjeev T’s effort to substantiate the Indian independent music scene. His return to the five-piece band model marks a reversion to personally crafted, un-industrially packaged music that few would chose to take up after continuing financial and commercial success. But even though one would like to hear more of the guitarist rocking Rahman’s Mausam and Escape, what counts is Sanjeev T’s return to the heart.

Shreya Bose

Shreya Bose is an English grad who is rethinking her dedication to academia and trying to figure out the secret to personal sanity. Currently, writing seems like the only activity that offers both inspiration and catharsis. When free, she overdoses on Yukio Mishima and Kahlua.