It’s not often that a band comes in and does something a tad different while instantly connecting with the listener. aswekeepsearching from India does exactly that as they take you on their latest musical voyage, Zia.
The band came out of nowhere back in 2015 with the release of their debut Khwaab. Their mix of ambient post-rock sounds with minimalist vocals quickly garnered attention, as they signed to the Russian label Flowers Blossom In The Space. After 18 months of heavy touring across India and a tour of Russia, the band is back with their follow-up.
On the first spin, the most evident change in sound is that the band’s soft spoken Hindi vocals have taken up more space here than on their debut. The instrumentals have also further expanded in their scope and reach; the band’s ever present synths and guitars are now complemented with violin, cello, tabla and sitar interspersed throughout the album’s tracks. These additions help the band bring in a bit of a local touch and feel to the music, helping them stand apart from their international peers.
The album title Zia means ‘breaking free’, as the album conveys the experience of a man trapped in a metaphorical cage, unable to reach his true potential. This story is portrayed with the record’s lyrics, but also in the dramatic transitions from hard hitting distorted notes to calm, melodic interludes. This approach subconsciously makes one think of the struggle one faces against the monotony of life and how most cave in to this routine lifestyle.
The experience garnered by the members over the past writing and touring cycle is evident, as the songs are very cohesive and well structured. Each track has its own distinct ebb and flow. “Kalga” really shines as it begins with a simple melody and some live recordings of street noise. This develops into a tour de force mid-way, before giving way to the echoing, narrative vocals of Uddipan. The violin in the background throughout the track adds its own melancholia. “Sometime Somewhere” sees the YouTube sitar sensation Rishabh Seen add some exotic flavor to a well-built track. The sitar is sort of omnipresent, bringing in a fresh feel without ever monopolizing the song.
Zia does have a few shortcomings. Firstly, the synth driven electronic parts don’t really blend in with the heavier segments, which becomes evident with repeat listens. The second is that the record does tend to meander towards the end, and could have possibly been cut to a slightly shorter length. It’s not to say that there are weak tracks, but the above points do reduce the overall impact the music has on the listener.
Nevertheless, there is a melancholic beauty in the soft post-rock that aswekeepsearching bring forth in Zia – an exotic ride into the wild, beautiful landscapes of Indian indie music.
Notable Tracks: “Kalga”; “And Then Came Spring”; “Sometime Somewhere”
FFO: Steven Wilson, Tides From Nebula, April Rain