aswekeepsearching – Khwaab [Finely Tuned #2]
Considering the propaganda-laden schoolbooks and enforced teetotalism, it’s safe to say that experimental music wouldn’t feature in a top-ten list of fields in which Gujarat has made a name for itself. One cannot, therefore, blame me for the mild hesitance with which I approached the debut full-length album by aswekeepsearching, a post-rock quartet based out of Ahmedabad. Released through Russian underground label Flowers Blossom In The Space, ‘Khwaab’ is a hefty, hour-long listen, and its eleven tracks feature a homogeneous miscellany of genre staples, including textural electronics, ambient guitar-noodling, and use of dynamic contrast.
The album opens with ‘Ativa’, an enjoyable seven minute build-up that culminates in emphatic, layered, Hindi vocals. ‘In Circles’ has a pleasant intro and an energetic chorus that would feel right at home on a toe record. The dynamics of the track are wonderful, and it stands out as one of the album’s best. Scampering drum work and effects on ‘We Sound Like Strangers’ lead to an extract of dialogue from the 2008 film ‘Revolutionary Road’. The DiCaprio-Winslet squabble seems out of place, and the unremarkable sections that follow add little value to the track. ‘Other Side’ and ‘When Will They Talk?’ carry the album forward well, the subdued instruments and piano work reminiscent of Mogwai‘s ‘Happy Songs For Happy People’.
‘Catalogues’ is a fantastic track featuring a sinister, trip-hop like intro and rapidly changing sections. ‘Banshee’ isn’t quite as enjoyable. The glitchy electronics of ‘What if_?’ and obscure sampling on ‘Life=Parallels’ make way for some well executed, shoegaze inspired choruses and sparse vocal sections. ‘The Moment’, the shortest song on the album, consists exclusively of piano and synthesized strings, eventually melting into ‘B-303’. Calming synths and a quiet guitar line erupt into an unhinged frenzy of drums and meaty riffage, constituting a glorious closing track.
An unfortunately large number of Indian projects collapse upon themselves simply by trying too hard, rendered mere parodies of the monumental artistry that they strive to emulate. aswekeepsearching evade inclusion in this subset of their peers with ease, having crafted a rich, authentic sound for themselves. The drums and bass on the album are consistently gorgeous, and while the production on some tracks can be overwhelming, it isn’t a deal-breaker. With ‘Khwaab’, aswekeepsearching have earned themselves consequential role in the promising new vanguard of Indian indie.
Noteworthy tracks: In Circles, Catalogues, B-303
You can stream ‘Khwaab’ for free here.
Finely Tuned is The MIT Post’s weekly album review column. It is an attempt to add a new dimension to the way Manipal looks at music. Every week, we will bring you a fresh album; carefully picked from a catalogue composed of both critically acclaimed mainstream releases and noteworthy independent ones.