I am ashamed I didn’t discover Agam earlier but, damn, are they good! I have been listening to their debut album The Inner Self Awakens over the past one week and it is just scintillating to see Carnatic influences come together so well in a progressive rock format. I love the entire album but three pieces really stood out – Dhanashree Tillana, Boat Song and Malhar Jam. The Tillana is a fabulous effort at reinventing something that is already ingrained in our minds; instead of the tabla (which is also there in the interludes), the drums and guitar provide the contrapuntal and it is really something to see an electric guitar scale an alaap so majestically. The rendition by Harish Sivaramakrishnan is crisp and doesn’t lose much nuance despite the sprightly pacing. Harish’s vocals, again, stand out in Boat Song; the grand elaborate solos in the two interludes are breath taking, not just for their beauty but also, for their audacity and the substitution for vocalising is a terrific idea. Malhar Jam is more conventional but, like comfort food, pleasant in its nuanced, mesmeric repetition. Swans of Saraswati is more layered in terms of orchestration although it is more pastiche than an organic whole of a song in the way the interludes seem to float around indifferently. Brahma’s Dance spruces up the invocation nicely and also introduces the elusive violin into the mix.
When Rudra channels its Shiva’s angst through the guitar, in its obviousness lies the puzzling question – Why did it take so long for bands to figure out something so obvious? So much of traditional music is waiting to be produced in this fashion and rock, contrary to expectation, can play the perfect counterfoil. I already can’t wait for Agam’s next album.
Help the band by buying original music here. It might seem expensive but it is worth every penny – http://www.oklisten.com/album/the_inner_self_awakens