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Originally published in the Hindu Metroplus in April 2012.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/article3294828.ece

Advaita – The Silent Sea (2012) – EMI

Rs. 295

Fusion has never been trendier than it is these days, but to wed Hindustani classical with psychedelic rock and lounge so organically seems to be solely Advaita’s prerogative. The Delhi-based octet release their sophomore album, ‘The Silent Sea’, after a string of TV appearances and their debut offering in 2009, ‘Grounded in Space’.

One marked change immediately noticeable from the first two tracks – ‘Dust’ and ‘Gorakh’ – is the shift to darker soundscapes. With all songs clocking in at over five minutes, it’s also a safe guess that ‘The Silent Sea’ sees much more exploration into progressive music.

‘Meinda Ishq’ delightfully turns that mood over, with swift percussions evoking a drum and bass-like beat, one listeners would find more of on their previous album. ‘Mandirva’ is the first time we hear the classical vocals of Ujwal Nagar and Suhail Yusuf Khan take over the song entirely, where riffs meet alaaps to create an epic chorus that progresses almost destructively.

But before you would even feel destructive, there’s the slowed mellowness of ‘Spinning’. Khan’s sarangi features prominently as the only classical instrument that meets a chill-out loop and some very meditative drumming from Aman Singh Rathore.

We hear more of the sinister, morose side of the band on ‘Words’, which starts out simple and innocent, but gains a dark ambient, Radiohead-inspired movement before it almost spirals out of control. When the vocals kick in again, from both Nagar and Chayan Adhikari, there’s balance restored.

‘GaMaPaNiPa’ brings back a livelier, jumpier beat, with trippy electronics from Anindo Bose and funk guitars from Abhishek Mathur. A song like ‘Mo Funk’ is a perfect example of how exactly Advaita make a few jaws drop. Near-absent classical sounds, but the vocals are dominantly Hindustani. Towards the end, when Adhikari does take over, it sounds highly reminiscent of Porcupine Tree.

The album closer is the self-titled track, which is subdued more than anything else, the sound of waves added to probably signify the feeling of meditative reflection.

To point a single – and probably the only flaw – Advaita ride a little close to losing their uniqueness, with a few songs seeming formulaic. A formula that becomes discernible by the time one would have given the album a few spins. Nonetheless, there’s enough to keep foots tapping, minds expanding and even win over a few Hindustani classical fans.

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