Counter Culture, Bangalore
Friday, August 31, 2012
Review and photos by Hari Adivarekar
Every great concert experience has one defining moment. One that’ll mine through the chaos of your memories and still shine years later. Four volunteers stood in a neat line, gender balanced, grinning at a mike shrouded in white. One by one, encouraged by the black banyan toting, big-arms-belying-a-sensitive-spirit TL Mazumdar, they walked up and said in one brief sentence what ‘freedom’ meant to them. Jivraj Singh, drum wunderkind and progeny of Kolkata’s first family of music, boring holes into his laptop screen with his intense eyes, recorded these free thoughts. After a swaggerly swig of his fresh lime, he proceeded to mix the spoken words, (pinch me because this is true) and use this remix-mash-up as the foundation for a completely improvised song. All in real time. This was heady stuff, and had nothing to do with the free beer that was thrust into my hands moments earlier. Improvisation, as any musician who has struggled and failed with her tempestuous moods will tell you, is a fickle muse. Improvisation sparked off by completely random audience interaction is bloody magical.
“I’d rather be inspired by other things to make music rather than being inspired by other music,” TL told me before the gig, citing photography as another outlet to influence his music.
The set started off with the measured, well within the limits ‘Clear Blue Skies’ to wet our appetites. ‘Thank You’ gave us a little more, while the many synths dotting both musicians’ set-ups get jolted to life, spewing blips and beeps, dub step grinds and swishes. With tracks like the lush future hit ‘This is The Last Time’, ‘Home’(TL: “I’ve lived in so many places”) and ‘Happy Time’ the duo really flexed their sonic muscles, giving us a full frontal assault of their considerable collective prowess.
Deconstructed covers of ‘Wish You Were Here,’ ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘With or Without You’ in ways they’ve never been done caused the audience to break out into involuntary nod-alongs, discordant with the complex time signatures. Jivraj played those drums with a nuance that is unmatched by any in the country, backed ably by his smorgasbord of sounds and synths. Meanwhile, TL was cool and completely in control of a vast genre of keyboard and synth styles, from 60s organ jazz, through 70s funk and soul, post-modern synth pop and dubstep. His voice sometimes conjures Jónsi Birgisson’s soaring falsetto and at other times Diorama era Silverchair. One area that definitely needs work is his compulsive need to write about a past breakup and his vocal melodies that veer into an amorphous parity at times. Both these are the only minor stumbling blocks in a formidable duo that matches each other in verve, musicianship and dynamics.
As Abhijeet Tambe, local eccentric musician and sound artist, and most recently famous for contributing a line to the ‘Freedom’ improv put it, “I saw them last year and they’ve really come a long way. This set was really interesting.” This from a guy who once set up a soundscape in a forest. You know then that Jivraj Singh and TL Mazumdar and what he calls the Electronic Singer Songwriter Forum are going to get over their past heartbreak and are on their way to bursting into happier sonic pastures.