I have a simple philosophy: Good music is good music. Where it comes from is beside the point.
Still, the band aswekeepsearching is proud to point out that they might be the only Hindi/Indian post-rock band going. So who am I to take that away from them?
The band has just released its second album, called Zia. It is, in a word, remarkable.
Post-rock is music easily dismissed and relegated to the background, if the band performing it isn’t careful. The best post-rock manages to achieve a delicate balance: it can be used as a background element, or it can remain in the foreground, creating a solid and stable ambient base for the listener to do something or — better still — nothing to. aswekeepsearching has struck that delicate balance.
Sambit Chatterjee (tabla and percussion), Ajay Jayanthi (strings), and Rishab Seen (sitar) have managed to create a soundscape driven (but not dominated) by its groove, layered with rich textures and earnest vocals. And while I do not speak Hindi, it is irrelevant here, because the words don’t need to have meaning for me to enjoy them. I see this band’s lyrical content the same way I do Sigur Ros: more like an instrument rather than means to an editorial end.
The album establishes itself immediately in the electronic plus of “And Then Came Spring.” It doesn’t take long to get drawn in and start losing yourself in the groove.
“Sleep//Awake” cements things, as the band takes you on a journey on par with Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You’s works. Only the hints of tabla and sitar sprinkled throughout the album give away the band’s native heritage. The band manages to remain true to its ancestry while simultaneously embracing the core tenants of quality post-rock. This is not the easiest thing in the world to do.
“Lights & Colors” found its way deep into my musical core. It’s heavy, yet harmless. On the off chance you drifted off, or let the band’s music work its way to the background, here it comes again to make sure you’re paying attention. It’s one of the more organic tunes on the record, with the guitars, bass, and drums taking precedence over the electronic soundscapes. It’s a breath of fresh air that gently kicks you in the head.
The album’s consistency is one of its most endearing qualities. The music puts you in the right mental state immediately, and holds you there until the end. There are no crazy gimmicks, no over-the-top movements, no attention-getting craziness for its own sake. It’s a solid album full of really good music. While I find myself reminded of other post-rock bands when I listen to aswekeepsearching, I hear respect for those bands, as opposed to an attempt to copy them.
Zia is a real gem, and a potential breakout album for aswekeepsearching. I hope we hear from them for a long time to come.