Tag Archives: Crawl

Calamitunes by The Bicycle Days – Colours, Concepts and Pure Randomness


Two things could have worked against Bangalore-based The Bicycle Days on their debut album Calamitunes – a full-length debut almost three years after a well-received EP is a massive risk, given you wouldn’t really know whether the first set of fans you’ve garnered back then would still remain interested in the sound. But if the interest levels did indeed wane, then the best thing to do is experiment with the sound. And that’s the second risk this band has taken. The Bicycle Days has experimented with a whole range of sounds and effects over this nine-track offering, some of which give you a strong sense of déjà vu while others take you into uncharted territory (when you say psychedelia-infused music, do we really have a template?) But here’s the catch – these experiments move completely away from the tried-and-tested mainstream formats of songwriting and putting together an album – no catchy choruses, nothing you could even hum in the shower or even jump around and bang your heads along with at a live gig.

The album opens with ‘Vicious’, which starts on a very raw bass with no embellishments. If you’ve already seen this bunch perform live, you can imagine the flurry of colours and random images that could hit your consciousness along with this track. But the mood of the album is not set until the next track ‘Conundrum’ begins slow and easy before Karthik Basker’s vocals cry “Soo…comfy in my cozy cocoon/Why break my stride/Why break my stride…” – a jazz-influenced break that moves into the next track, the first single from the album ‘Crawl (The Human Experience)’, which is probably the most psychedelia-influenced track from this lot. In fact, if you have already seen the video that they released for the single, it would feel like you’re adding soundtrack to cut-scenes from the ‘Tree of Life’, or let’s say we let our imagination run wild – you could call it something like tripping on acid and taking a round of the human nervous system with this song playing in the background.

Now, more about the sound. While The Bicycle Days initially set out to explore a completely Radiohead-esque sound with the ambient effects, the echoes, and the soft, soothing vocals, with the change in line up and the direction of the band, it’s unfair to expect them to still stick to the sound that got them noticed in the first place. But hey, just so that we don’t complain, ‘Crawl (The Human Experience)’ takes us back to something a lot more familiar and is definitely the most haunting piece on the album – more focus on the sound, the lyrics can go hang.

But talking about taking a step back or re-inventing old material, there’s ‘Circles (Information =/= experience)’, a track out of their EP, which has been re-imagined, retaining very little besides the repeating original crisp and aggressive guitar riffs. Perhaps the reason why this version was included in the album was to just display their entire evolution in sound. But, redone and revisited, this version of ‘Circles’ might as well stand out as a separate track, on its own merit.

First thing you have to say about ‘Indignation’ is how it picks up the pace right from the very opening of this track – the percussions and the guitar riffs fervently move along with vocals that are as agitated. The track ends on a very interesting note – a medley of effects and sounds that swirl around with a brief dialogue from the Rajinikanth film Shivaji. Hell, they even close the song with the signature Rajini guffaw. My favourite on this album is already set.

Up next is ‘Escape’, which rests heavily on the bass and a regular hi-hat section, but what caught me here are the lyrics – contemplative yet simple that transcends into urban poetry (Tonight my muse is too loud/ and I can’t sleep’, being my favourite.) The album moves into very heavy electronica territory closer towards the end of the album beginning with ‘Hush’. The track is heavily laden with muffled guitars and synthesized effects, which is now a lot more vivid. The song calls out to one’s “beautiful mind”, and that is exactly what it does – spark up your imagination and takes your mind on a trip quite peculiar, and this is yet another junction where you’d sit up and scream Radiohead! And that’s only because of the mood they set. The penultimate track ‘Moulds’ slackens the pace with Basker’s dreamy vocals and the soft-strumming guitars. This serves as pretty much a lead-in for the final track ‘Truce’.

By now, you’d hit a certain sense of familiarity, which thankfully, is not an issue since we’re already on the final track. But then, the pace could have picked up a little or gone into something that packs a little more punch rather than ending the album on a medley of sounds that, in the end, dissipates like wisps of smoke (maybe the feeling of being left wanting more is on purpose?)

We weighed out the risks, explored the sound and dipped into an inebriated trip into colours, concepts and pure randomness, and if there’s a verdict that needs to be out on The Bicycle Days’ debut effort, let’s say that Calamitunes is an album which is cocksure of itself and makes no attempts at pretensions, be it to just ‘fit the bill’ or be popular.

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Rohit Panikker

Rohit Panikker is a Chennai-based journalist, pop culture junkie and tea addict. In an alternate universe he is Indiana Jones, lives in a human-sized Hobbit hole (yes, a dreamy oxymoron) and writes like Hunter Thompson! Follow Rohit on Twitter @rohitpanikker


The Bicycle Days feat. Audio-visual performance by Nikhil and Abhinav at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore


I’ve always enjoyed gigs at The BFlat Bar and unlike some other similar venues they have kept live music in mind while designing the venue – no awkwardly elevated stages and bad PA systems. The set started at 9:00 p.m. with an audio-visual performance by Nikhil and Abhinav. The lights were dimmed down and a projector beamed live effects on a screen behind the stage while the artists stood behind their consoles. I had heard Nikhil before at a sound installation he had put up with a friend at The Mad Festival. He records a lot of his own samples that he uses in his set. His style cannot be easily typified under labels such as electro, psy or dub. I can only describe it as “far out” and something you either really enjoy or don’t understand. The audio-visual set opened a door leading to an entirely new and thrillingly unsettling musical dimension: a sprawling, amorphous journey through fragile but foreboding soundscapes that takes in everything from electron glitch sounds and shimmering, shadow-shrouded psychedelia to bursts of disorienting noise and scything swathes of diaphanous synth horror. Though the music is electronic, it seems to have evolved organically.

Watching The Bicycle Days up close is a completely different experience from watching them at a concert with a large audience and a distant stage. The Bicycle Days are an eclectic bunch of people who work really well together to say the least. Their bass player Shek can be found at the skate park on Sarjapur road on most days where he is also an instructor. Their guitarist Rahul is also a sound engineer and does sound for a number of bands apart from teaching guitar at popular Bangalore music school ‘Taaqademy’ (setup by the veteran rockers Thermal and a Quarter).

The Bicycle Days have a hyper-evolved sense of limitless experimentation, where no idea is deemed too preposterous to warrant consideration. There’s a heavy use of samples, vocal effects and controlled feedback and yet the music remains the focal point of attention for the band and the audience. And don’t let the ambient textures and digital soundscapes fool you; their sound is still very much rooted in straight up rock. There was a lot of heavy riffing through the set. Having stepped so deliberately away from traditional rock structures, many would superficially mistake their sound as a rejection of heaviness, or extremity and of anything that fans of aggressive music might regard as sonically satisfying.

They started with ‘Conundrum’, ‘Tele Drug Zombie’ and ‘Something Human’, which I really liked because of the guitar riffs. ‘Crawl’ was almost like a hypnotic prayer with only Rahul creating ambient sounds through his rig and echo-drenched vocals. There was a degree of intimacy and intensity on display throughout the set that suggests a much more involved writing process than anything that could be bashed out while under the influence.

They went on to play some new material that they’re going to release soon and the evolution in their sound was very noticeable as the set progressed with ‘Wishes’, ‘Indignance’ and another track that they haven’t named yet. The band closed their set by returning to the more familiar tracks such as ‘27′, ‘Circles’ and ‘Sober Anthem’, which sounded especially distinct due to the venue and the lighting and visuals.

I read somewhere that a Bicycle Days concert is an experience that will scar and caress you at the same time. It had its moments of macabre serenity, bleak elegance and otherworldly malevolence that make it a far more uncomfortable listen than any more traditional barrage of distorted riffing and guttural growls. Few informed listeners will be surprised to discover that they have created something that resounds with fierce originality and an almost defiant disregard for the rock n’ roll status quo. Watch out for the video for ‘Wishes’ from their upcoming album.