Originally published in the Hindu Metroplus Friday Review Bangalore edition on January 4th, 2013
It’s Not Night: It’s Space Profile
When the karatal cymbals join in the swelling intro ‘The Gathering’ on New York raga rollers It’s Not Night: It’s Space, there’s some reassurance knowing rock musicians are still looking back into a past where psychedelic music borrowed from Hindustani Classical.
The self-ascribed tag of ‘Raga Roll’ is telling of the band’s influences from ragas and taalas and rock and roll. “Raga-Roll is a term we made up to try to describe our music, and more than anything, it sounded clever. Certainly, none of us are very technical players,” the band members explain. Featuring Kevin Halcott on guitar, Tommy Guerrero on bass and drummer Michael Lutomski, It’s Not Night: It’s Space formed in the winter of 2010 after jamming together, realising only later that they shared mutual friends and of course, mutual taste in music.
On probing the fact that none of the members are trained in Indian classical music, what does emerge is that they remain well-versed with nuances of classical music, interpreting it in their own way with guitar drones and synthesized tanpura. They substitute tablas with hand drums and got producer Rick Birmingham to play sitar and fiddle on their latest album “Bowing Not Knowing To What”, which released in October 2012.
One less thing to worry about are vocals, since the band plays entirely instrumental music, although a hint of Hindustani vocal harmonies and instrumentation can be heard on songs such as ‘Painted Serpent’, ‘Magus In The Valley’ and ‘Palace Of the Bees’. “All our songs are meant to convey a certain mood or hint at a certain narrative in spite of the fact they are without lyrics,” the band explains.
The heavy psychedelic band draws from metal and psychedelic and post-rock bands from across the eras such as Black Sabbath, Soft Machine, Sleep, Neurosis and Godspeed You Black Emperor. Drummer Michael Lutomski’s Indian influences began with listening to Pandit Ravi Shankar, and extended to the likes of Sultan Khan, Pandit Pran Nath and the Gundecha Brothers. The major advantage in citing influences as varied as these artists lies in It’s Not Night: It’s Space’s ability to play alongside metal bands as well as rock and roll bands or psychedelic bands. The band explains: “We can play shows with lighter bands too and we have enough material now where we can mix and match songs to tailor the setlist appropriately, but the psychedelic aspect is always present.”
The members believe their brand of heavy psychedelic rock shares a commonality with the instrumental nature of ragas in Hindustani classical. “The sense of the sacred is also something inherent in raga and our songs, and the fact that ragas are intended for certain times of day too. Given our band’s name, we would like to think of all our songs as Evening Ragas. But Indian Classical music has been tied with Western Psychedelic Rock for a long time now, so we are gladly inheriting some of that as well. Ultimately, more than an actual musical relationship to raga, it’s a kinship in spirit.”
It’s of little doubt that this band would fit right in for Indian audiences. Would the band like to tour the country? “None of us have ever been (to India), but we would certainly love to. We all have a deep respect for the music, the food, the philosophy, and landscape of India. We are interested in sharing our music with as many people as possible, all over the world, but a trip to India would certainly be something special,” the members say.
Listen to It’s Not Night: It’s Space on innis.bandcamp.com