At the moment, there is no doubt about the fact that electronic music is blowing up around the country. While we always associate electronic music with dance, Bangalore-based band The Burning Deck has proven that electronic music can also be as soul-stirring and beautiful as a piece of classical music. Although there are many electronic acts in India, there is almost certainly no one among them who is creating the same sort of music as The Burning Deck. Surprisingly enough, The Burning Deck is the brainchild of Sandeep Madhavan who was a member of the Bangalore-based rock band Old Jungle Saying. The Burning Deck can be considered to be largely his solo project, but Madhavan does collaborate extensively with musicians from practically every genre to create genre-bending, eccentric and completely original tracks that will make you stop and pay attention.
Madhavan started working on his solo project way back in 2012 and tried to rope in other musicians from Bangalore to work with. When that didnt work out he went from being a bassist for rock bands to creating and producing his own music on a computer. As he relied so heavily on his computer, he quickly realized that he could do it all on his own and his music began to lean more towards electronica and hence The Burning Deck was born. Although the band is only a few years old, Madhavan has already released a debut album Kalinitha, in collaboration with various artists and Deluge is the second offering from The Burning Deck, which was released on the 13th of June this year. Madhavans background as a rock musician and his partnership with a wide range of musicians such as Arfaaz Kaagalwala from Fuzzy Logic and Kartik Basker from The Bicycle Days means that his music cannot be squarely placed in the electronic category.
As with the previous album, Deluge is a mix of jazz, funk, rock, electronic and various other weird and wonderful sounds. This album is a treat to those who love Massive Attack, Moby and Portishead with its creative sampling and experimental sounds. One might think that the album takes a while getting used to as the tracks are so unique, but they grow on the listener pretty quickly. The album and every track on it were inspired by Madhavans travels around the country and the world. Each track is dedicated to a different place and tries to capture the essence of that place and this is why the songs are so different from one another. Overall, the tracks are down-tempo, laid-back and moody – quickly shifting from exuberant and hopeful to dark and despondent. Some of the tracks have minimal vocals that are mostly incomprehensible, which adds to the allure of the album.
Deluge is a creative force showcasing the raw talent of Madhavan and his collaborators and it seems like all the contributing artists put up their best and bravest music in an album that welcomes all that is a little left of centre and that manages to find the right balance among all these eccentric musical influences. Although the songs are filled with eclectic sounds, they are never jarring or unpleasant and will have you appreciating the fact that only a master producer and musician like Madhavan can blend such disparate influences so seamlessly.
The first track Lightbulbs on Wet Sand starts off mellow and dark but gradually the drums kick in giving it a more alt-rock feel. It may not be the best track on the album but it is a good opener as it eases the listener slowly into Deluges more eccentric tracks. With soothing vocals and a trance vibe, you can imagine this song being played at a beach café at sunset.
Like Lightbulbs on Wet Sand, the next track Shoreline also seems to be inspired by the beach. With a very groovy bass intro, this track will quickly hook you in. It is much more laidback than the previous track and one of my favourites on the album. Shoreline features Katie Mackay on the trumpet and the brilliant mix of electronic, jazz and trance on this track makes it stand out. The extremely catchy bassline will have you nodding your head in appreciation.
This unforgettable track is followed by Isla de Luna, which has quite a jarring intro and doesnt really match up to Shoreline. This song is said to be inspired by Madhavans trip to Lake Titicaca and has some weird sampling and is slightly gloomy.
The next track is Undercurrent that has a very groovy guitar intro and bassline. It also features the trumpet to great effect and is another stellar track on the album. From the relaxed notes of the trumpet, the track intermittently shifts to more upbeat guitar sections, which actually keeps this rather lengthy song interesting. A perfect mix of jazz and rock with nature sounds thrown in, Undercurrent´ is bound to grow on you.
The title track that comes up next is exotic and quite addictive and is a bit of a change from smoother tracks like Undercurrent and Shoreline´. Most of this track was made with the help of a synthesizer, where Madhavan seems to have let loose. Deluge is not everyones cup of tea but it does turn out to be a pleasant surprise.
This is followed by Sheepish, which is nothing extraordinary. It is pretty and has a sweet melody and works well as a filler track. There different sections of the song do not mix well and disturb the flow of the song. Fortunately, this song gives way to Kitten up a Tree, which starts off with a delightful chatter. The song has a very synth-pop vibe but never crosses the line to kitschy. This is one of three tracks on the album that features very prominent vocals that compliments the keyboard-laden score beautifully. The percussions are inventive and add a great mood to the track, creating a slow build-up.
From Across the Valley has a very ominous beginning and is probably the most Indian classical-inspired song on the album. One can almost visualize this masterpiece of a song echoing through mist-covered mountain ranges. The dark intro gives way to a theatrical and uplifting song with a very pleasing bassline. The track is lifted further by the flute mashed together with very creative sampling. Even though the track features heavy percussions, they are restrained, which keeps the overall pace of the song relaxed.
The tone of the album shifts with Tailspin a bass-heavy song with thumping beats that can be quite a jolt after the preceding track. The breathy vocals are more distracting than edgy and the whole piece is quite creepy. The musicians working on this track were most probably aiming for edgy but this song just ends up making the listener feel uneasy.
Out of Sight continues along this creepy vein and is another bass and percussion-filled track. Not particularly enjoyable, the vocals by Kartik Basker seem forced and do nothing for the song. The track is too distorted and will leave you wanting for the album to move onto the next song. Two oh Two is another track with a very sinister beginning and unimpressive vocals and another one that fails to wow. Comparatively, it is a mediocre track in an album that has some gems.
Deluge ends on a high note with Afraid of Letting Go. This sprightly tune heavily features the trumpet and the flute that make this track a stunner. Again, a very groovy bassline on this song can be very addictive and manages to tease the listener throughout the track. After some less-than-stellar tracks, Afraid of Letting Go makes up for all the flaws and will make you want to go back and listen to the whole album again. A fitting end to a very clever and imaginative album.
Deluge is one of the most unusual albums you will come across and you will be glad that you did. It is bold, sometimes wacky and completely original every track will push your musical sensibilities and will make you appreciate Madhavans skill at mashing together different sounds even if you do not love all the songs. The tracks that feature Arjun MPN on the flute and Katie Mackay on the trumpet are the standouts on this album. Shoreline, ´Far Across the Valley, ´Kitten up a Tree and other similar tracks are the ones that make the album so great. Listening to this album will leave you mesmerised and sometimes confused but always interested. So dont be apprehensive and give this album and the bands debut album a listen.