Tag Archives: Radiohead

An Eye for Music

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One of the most delightful conundrums of music is that while it had almost solely been hailed as an enchanter of the ear, its proliferation into the phenomenon that it has become has been dependant largely on the visual dimension. To put it bluntly, music has been parading as a non-optic art even though half its appeal lies in visualization. Not merely stage presence, but even music videos and the artists’ presentation in terms of fashion and symbology shapes the listener’s perception of and response to the music.

In all truth, can you imagine your favorite group never touring? Can you imagine never having the opportunity to gauge their skills without the sound processors and the benefits of jaw-dropping equipment? You really can’t. Even if the chances of you actually getting to watch Radiohead or Draconian or Steve Wilson is slim, you still go to YouTube and check their live performances because, in this age of auto-tuning and musical contraptions whose names I can’t even spell, the live show is our last resort to judge the quality of what the artists purports to stand upon.

But the appeal of the live gig does not merely end with a perfect rendition of your favorite song. The very vision of musicians physically handling instruments and singing, the movement in time, or even out of time with the rhythm adds a sense of validity to the music. Think about it. Aerosmith’s performance of ‘Dream On’ at the concert for Tania Vasileva is completely different from anything else they’ve done, and mainly because Steven Tyler makes this voodoo-ballet arm motion which is frankly, mesmerizing, even with his obviously tired voice. Think Steven Wilson gesturing furiously while singing ‘What Happens Now’ in Tillburg [remember when he twirls his fingers? A perfect cross between Moriarty and Bellatrix Lestrange!] Everything, from the color of lighting to the motions of the artist become a part of the listener’s receptive sensation. Karsh Kale’s collaboration with The Midival Punditz in the Paleo Fest ’09 in Geneva brings to mind the effect visual arrangement has upon what the music ‘feels’ like. There is none to deny that the play of light and shade on stage and beyond it has manipulated countless listeners into the state of mind that the music desires.

An Eye for Music

The personal nuances of the musician’s physical expression, in accompaniment with the music incorporates a sense of completeness. Yanni’s enormous performances set at the great monuments of the world make a direct statement upon the grandiosity and the power his music never fails to achieve. The music that, on an album is more of a simple auditory expression, when heard live, infuses into the listener a certain bodily consciousness.

Nowhere is music’s visual significance more evident than in the rock and metal community. Both genres have a fanbase that chooses to define itself by visual means, be it clothing, accessories or personal style. In essence, the black clothing and the long hair and the tattoos do not merely proclaim the fan’s loyalty, but also collect the individual into a sense of artistic community. It might sound trivial, but eons of similar cultural functioning would state otherwise.

Interestingly, the visual facet of music finds an expression in something called “visual music”. A term coined by art critic Roger Fry to describe the work of Russian abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky, it refers to use of musical structures in visual art or methods that translate music into visual presentation. This form is frequently found in the works of experimental musicians like Porcupine Tree or Japanese noise artist Merzbow or Indian guitar virtuoso Amyt Dutta. Try Dutta’s video of ‘Ironic Bironic’ and you’ll see what I mean. Or check out any of Porcupine Tree’s live shows, which are incomplete without a background kaleidoscope of Lasse Hoile’s photography. Album art, infact, contributes enormously to conveying a message or establishing an ethic. Why else would Cat Stevens or Cannibal Corpse take such pains to devise album art that have gone on to become the stuff of legend? Let’s not forget The Bicycle Days creating album covers that seems right of a Beatles style LSD trip? The visual part is not just an accompaniment but serves to enhance the influence of the music.

An Eye for Music

Of course, such influence is noticeable only in the case of artists that make conscious use of imagery in tandem with their melody. Most often, the visual paradigm is confined to music videos. Barring those that choose to merely random images without making an actual point , the video offers a great amplification of the musical intent. The video can contribute, to an astounding extent in understanding the musician’s conclusions. Case in point : Tool’s ‘Parabol/Parabola’ video, Wilson’s ‘Harmony Corine’ or Unkle’s ‘Rabbit in your Headlights’. The irrefutable truth of humanity’s preference for that which can be seen makes visual artistry an undermined but inalienable part of music in its entirety.

The existence of a neurological condition called ‘synesthesia’ that enables human beings to actually visualize music in colors and visual shapes is reflected in the artistry of most experimental musicians.

Sure, many of them resort to obscurantism, but you’re bound to come across unforgettable tales written in a combination of image and sound. Bring to mind the soundtrack of Ben Hur or The Dark Knight Trilogy or even Eraserhead. The music’s excellence first struck us because of its skill in accentuating and manipulating our sentiments in accordance to the film’s events. Moreover, some of the most harrowing and engaging music in the world, namely psychedelia, attempts to replicate a state of mind dominated by intoxicant-induced images. Syd Barrett or John Lennon certainly devoted a large part of their imagination to the construction of music that sought to enhance your ‘high’, and popular opinion would have you convinced that the ‘high’ is almost entirely a profusion of uncanny images.

Music is the most embracing of all art forms. Never meant to be isolated, music makes inroads into every consciousness and does so by appealing to every one of the listener’s senses, among which the visual is the most accessible. Human perception, unless otherwise hindered is primarily active through the eyes. Music, in its complete aspect harnesses and harmonises the visual to the auditory in creating a sentimental and psychological response.

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.

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

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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.

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

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The Bicycle Days at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

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Dreadlocks, a leather beret and a familiar Floyd note was all The Bicycle Days gave us as an intro to their unique brand of psychedelic rock music. The Bangalore-based band performed at BFlat, Indiranagar, on Friday, 28th Oct. It was their new bassist Abhishek’s debut on home ground. The 8 p.m. gig started out with an experimental reggae-trance sound, making the 5-member band seem like an acquired taste. By the end of the evening, TBD settled into racier Radiohead-influenced material, which pleased their head-banging, foot-tapping fans.

The band’s opening number, ‘27′, had the much-required, shiver-down-your-spine effect on their early-bird audience. Taken off their 2010 debut EP 42, the song was first reminiscent of Pink Floyd before it suddenly sprouted alien sounds and drummed itself into something halfway melodic!

The second song, ‘Zorbing in Space’, confirmed the band’s non-conformity with the basic rules of song-writing. It gave us a glimpse of lead singer Karthik’s Marley phase. Following the half-hearted applause from the audience, they decide to talk to us about their third song. “This is Something Human”, said guitarist Rahul Ranganath, “It’s about humans.” Who needs long intros when the songs speak for themselves?

Around the time the Delhi-Metallica fiasco started dampening spirits at our table, The Bicycle Days kicked in with ‘Tele Drug Zombies’. It reminded us of Incubus with a slight jazz undertone. A hand full of die-hard TBD fans were lingering at the bar, mouthing the lyrics of the very aptly named ‘Fevered Ego Circus’ and bouncing up and down to the more upbeat ‘Something Human’. Little did they know that Karthik Basker had listed this song as ‘Something Gay’ on his tissue paper setlist that we managed to acquire post the show!

I like a band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and chills out with the audience more for the love of music than for the love of themselves! The Bicycle Days weren’t trying to be cute or charming. They didn’t play to the audience, but they did encourage applause. “We want more energy, Bangalore! Get drunk!” instructed Karthik just before their 5-minute timeout. “Awesome guys!” cheered the front row tables.

Our table, barely ten feet from the stage, was filled with half-empty beer bottles and Kung Pao potato. We were surrounded by the usual chilled-out Bangalore crowd, who just wanted to escape the Diwali bang-bang, which seems to be the only music we’ve been forced to hear over the past week! By the time we had soaked in the smells and sights of the tastefully decorated pub, the band had subtly returned with their sixth song ‘In This Moment’. It was the only song with a hint of Indian classical instruments, but it retained the band’s mysterious experimental tone. On their MySpace page, the band categorizes their genre as ‘Alternative / Experimental / Indie’ music. But I think the word ‘Alternative’ is the only one that truly captures their essence.

Seventh on that night’s setlist, ‘Radio Song’ was slow and enchanting. Maybe not as a much of a ear-pleaser, it had the energy to captivate listeners. Finally I could place Bicycle Days in the same zone as alternative rock band Radiohead’s OK Computer album. The band thanked the audience for the heartfelt applause that followed.

Mostly instrumental, ‘No Battery’ started off with dripping-water sounds and progressed into squeaky echoes of a child’s voice. Karthik had his arms folded across his chest and he randomly threw in some awkward hand gestures, which perfectly matched the song. The Bicycle Days had escaped into a world of its own. I sensed an element of disconnect, because of the lack of eye contact and verbal communication among band members. But more experienced TBD fans seemed to disagree. “Tonight the band is very ‘in-sync’ with each other. They’ve tremendously improved since the last time I saw them,” said Shruti Naik, who had attended TBD’s December 2010 gig at Xtreme Sports Bar, Bannerghatta.

As the night progressed, the 6-year-old video-gamer behind us fell asleep in his father’s arms. This didn’t stop his rocker-dad from head-banging and air-guitaring to ‘Circles’, the most popular song of the night. ‘Circles’ was the encore and came to be my favourite as well. The stick-in-your head guitar riffs caught my attention and sustained it through indecipherable lyrics. Considering I was a first-timer to a Bicycle Days gig and to B Flat, I couldn’t afford to be biased. But being a wordsmith, the absence of meaningful lyrics was my only pet peeve for the night.

The show met a ‘Sober Death’, which the band had strategically saved as the last song on their setlist. Throughout the gig, I was dying to ask the bassist, Abhishek, about the psychedelic stickers on his guitar but had to contend with staring at the equally psychedelic Dylan poster on the B Flat wall. Overall, I came away with an acquired sense of appreciation for the band’s music and a strong desire to see them live more often.

Parnika Reys Gamat

Parnika believes every song is a living person in an alternate universe she'd like to visit someday. You'll hardly ever see her without her headphones. Her other interests include travel, photography and poetry.

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Fire Exit at Manajsa Cafe, Delhi

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A glowing halo around the stage, multi-dimensional streaks of lights spanning the floor  of Manajsa Café, Hauz Khas – all of this added to the exuberant performance by Fire Exit – a Delhi based progressive alternate rock band. A product of time and talent, the band’s own unrelenting ambition was truly expressed on the stage with its performance of all the tracks from their 6-track EP called OKBYE!

The first official studio release by Fire Exit showcased its proficiency in varied styles of genres; combining rock, metal and electronic sounds. The tracks ranged from acoustic-ambient nature to ones with a heavier feel. The band blends great vocal melody along with instrumental harmony, and is based on experimentation with varied time signatures, jazz-influenced bass-lines and an Indian percussion instrument.

‘Poison Ivy‘, ‘Vacuum‘, ‘MML‘ were the tracks where the tabla gave an intriguing turn to the way the songs progressed, evoking tranquility among the musicians and the audience alike. The band also did a couple of covers including ‘Secret’ by Maroon 5, ‘White Knuckles’ by Alter Bridge, and ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. Not to forget Subhadra Kamath’s bewitching performance reminiscent of Myles Kennedy (that made me hoot in quite an unlady-like manner). Hot guitars gave an energetic beat, with smooth soloing rhythm, accented by shakers and tambourine; paving way to the sizzling musical chemistry between the lead vocalist Subhadra Kamath and the bassist Aditya Roy. Now THAT definitely did not go unnoticed. Killer wah on the drop!

Besides the melody, the impressive song writing had me strung-out all through the gig. I simply love the art form of song writing and yes, agreeing to what Glen Hughes says that it is through song writing that you get to carry a lot of vibes to a lot of people. They tend to find themselves in the songs. Similarly Subhadra’s lyrics hooked and reeled me in till I was drowning in the melody so deep that resurfacing took me a long, long time (I ended up buying three CDs!)

Disappointingly, there were less takers than one would expect at the Cafe. The Indian rock industry has gone through a metamorphosis in the last decade, becoming a melting pot of influences. It comes across as more open to experimentation than bands outside of the country. However, there might be a need to sound out a distress call soon. Especially, considering the fact that we still see people going annoyingly berserk over western influences.

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Chilly Potato at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

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I have a confession to make. I’m a Manchester United fan. How is this arbitrary piece of information relevant you ask? Well, I walked into the Chilly Potato gig at Kyra, wearing my Manchester United jersey just  after having witnessed them lose possibly the most important game of the season to arch-rivals Arsenal. As depressing as that was, I was looking to the concert to cheer me up. During my college days Chilly Potato (CP) was one of those bands at whose shows you were guaranteed a fun time.

The crowd that had gathered mainly consisted of friends and family. There was a sizeable WTS contingent there as well (Support the scene, y’all!) and they patiently waited for the show to start. Chilly Potato started off their return-show with their staple cover of ‘Born to be Wild.’ The band looked comfortable on stage even though it had been almost a year since their last show. The band segued well into a couple of their own compositions as Sidharth Mohan, the newest member of the band (on drums) impressed with his precise and varied beats. CP’s set-list was dominated by cover songs but a feature to note was that they put their own spin on all of the covers that they did play. Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ was pulled off with aplomb. CP did take the easy way out by covering ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ though. The expected crowd-chanting of the chorus didn’t happen either – the members in the audience were content applauding at the end of each song.

The band also played a four song acoustic set which kicked off with a full-feelingsu version of ‘Hallelujah.’ Singer Bharath managed to hit the right notes (well, most of them atleast!) in a song that isn’t the easiest to emulate. They also covered The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ and interestingly enough, Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit.’ Bassist Kevin and keyboardist Siddharth adeptly played the guitar parts for this phase of the gig. I thought they missed a beat (pardon the pun) by covering Porcupine Tree’s ‘Trains’ without a drummer though.

Chilly Potato then signed off the gig with what is possibly their best original – ‘A Million Miles Away.’ It was heartening to see few people in the audience know the lyrics to the track and sing along with the band. The band closed the show with a high-octane version of ‘Highway Star’ that segued into an encore of Phish’s ‘Tweezer Reprise.’ Although this wasn’t a drop-your-drink-and-stop-talking-to-the-girl-next-to-you-to-headbang sort of gig, every person in the audience seemed to have had a very enjoyable time. More importantly, the band, after their hiatus, had a great time on stage and will hopefully play few more shows in the future…and include their cult cover of Dr. Rajkumar’s ‘Tic Tic Ticâ’ in them. One more serving of some Chilly Potato please! This time with extra toppings of ‘Mungaru Metchul’ and ‘Sheela Ki Jawani’!

Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar

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42 by The Bicycle Days

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Bursting onto the scene with their unique sound, The Bicycle Days have emerged as a breath of fresh air in the Bangalore rock scene. When most Bangalore bands these days just tend to explore the different sub-genres of metal, these young chaps have the cajones to meld a variety of influences into their music. Taking inspiration from esoteric sources such as Radiohead and Bill Hicks(!), TBD have gained a considerable reputaion for themselves in a very short span of time. With Douglas Adams as their guide, they released an EP called 42 earlier this year. While it may not be the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything, 42 is certainly the answer to the dying[citation needed] rock scene in Bangalore.

It is not very common for a band to release an EP this early in their career but The Bicycle Days (or the acronym friendly TBD) have done so with aplomb. The hallmark of this record is the band’s confidence in their ability to meld electronica samples with guitar driven rock. This is evident on the brilliantly written ‘Psychonaut‘ which shows off guitarist Rahul Ranganath’s mastery of digital loops and samples.

The pick of the album definitely though is ‘27′. A spacey track that reaches a crescendo with singer Karthik Basker’s vocals urging the listener to laugh, sing, dance and unlearn. It is now a fan favourite and a concert staple and one can see why.
The closing track ‘Zen’ (with Ajit Ranganathan on veena) has a catchy riff and is a fine way to close out the album. Well, almost. Play the track for a few seconds after the silence and lo and behold – a secret track! This track mostly consists of eerie loops and Karthik’s Thom Yorke- influenced wails. Tip o’ the hat to the band for including a secret track!

It is a fine line between “insprired by” and “copying” and a criticism of this EP would be that TBD have tread on it. While sounding sufficiently original, you would be hard pressed to find a music fan who wouldn’t notice the very evident Radiohead influences on this album. That being said, TBD have created a unique space for themselves by incorporating the use of samples and vocal processors in their sound. It ain’t easy to translate this onto a live stage and TBD have proved their mettle with their gig at Kyra which has now gained a legendary status amongst music afficianodos. With some polish(the track ‘Circles’ is slightly derivative of the other tracks on the album) and a capable producer, this is a band that can go a long way. Till then turn on, tune in and space out.

Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar

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