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Written and published for the Hindu Metroplus/Sunday Magazine in April 2012.

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Sulk Station – Till You Appear (2012) Self-released

There seems to be something undeniably inspiring about Bangalore that tends to make artists from the city turn over music that’s brilliantly odd.

And I mean odd in a good way, especially the obscurity of it. A wave of psychedelic music seems to be sweeping the southern capital of indie. Sulk Station is part of it at the moment. The Bangalore-based duo, comprising of Rahul Giri manning the console and Tanvi Rao on vocals, release their first album ‘Till You Appear’ after receiving much praise in the press for their live shows.

Coming back to what inspires them, one likes to think it’s the almost always-overcast weather that the city is blanketed by, which is a perfect mood-setter for music like this. Elements of dark ambient, electronica and trip-hop kick in with the cleverly-titled ‘Downlift’, and carry on  – as does Rao’s haunting, lamented croon – in tracks such as ‘Take Me Home’ and ‘Confession’.

Other self-ascribed genres Sulk Station associate themselves with include post-dubstep and glitch-hop. Exemplary of this is the drop on ‘Contentment’, which is grimy and catchy enough to reach straight in and pull out of the listener all things sinister.

As if Rao hasn’t already earned our undivided attention right from the intro track ‘Pause’, she effortlessly shifts to Hindi lyrics, with convincing Hindustani vocals. Some of the tracks seem minimalist in composition at first, but Giri steps in to sweep listeners away into layers of infinity. On ‘Splendor’, the vocals are eerie, there are echoes and layering, but it never seems gimmicky. The instrumental outro clearly bears the mark of a Massive Attack fan.

There’s a slow jingle of a tambourine that steadily builds up the pace in ‘Bindya’, beginning to match drum n’ bass effects. All the while, Rao seems to have taken on a different persona when she sings in Hindi. Don’t be surprised if it ends up in a Bollywood film score.

The conceptually-bound tracks ‘Piya I’ and ‘Piya II’ makes one realise betrayal and dejection have never been better emoted than in music like this. On the album closer ‘Wait’, there’s a bit of guitars from fellow Bangalore scenester Kamal Singh, who fronts Lounge Piranha. The vocals are unwaveringly controlled, which makes listeners realise Rao masters both styles: the jazz-esque moroseness (which can be comparable to Portishead’s Beth Gibbons) and Hindustani classical.

With ‘Till You Appear’, it’s as though there’s no better mood you would drench yourself in, apart from gloomy contemplation. Might as well have it on loop, then.

Bottom line: Dark atmospheric beats set to even darker vocals, for fans of all things trippy.

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