New Delhi’s rock/prog/pop quartet Antariksh recently released their debut album “Khoj,” and it is interesting how this young band, made of some heavily-experienced musicians has come about. With Mridul Ganesh (former vocalist of Decibel and Feedback) on vocals and guitars, Varun Rajput (Nasya, Feedaback and Under Siege) and Gurtej Singh (Prestorika) both on guitars and backing vocals, and Vipul Malhotra on drums, it is quite the super band. For the album, the band has collaborated with Gaurav Chntamani (Advaita), Kartik Dhar (Nasya), Baiju Dharmajan (former Motherjane) and classical singers Rini Rajput.
Antariksh’s 11-track heavy “Khoj” begins opens with the aptly named Parichay (Introduction for the Hindi-disabled), a track rich in sound layers, beginning with atmospheric sound patches, and easing drums and guitars into its scheme. Certain sections of the track are evocative of Rob Dougan’s Furious Angels from “The Matrix”, and as the track progresses, one is thrown off guard by the sudden genre shift to climax-of-super-epic-movie-soundtrack mode.
This genre shift happens again with the progression of the next two tracks, Dheere Dheere and Aisa Hi Hota Hai. Thematically, the lyrics lead through the dark alleys of a lost individual’s mind. The lyrics are a play between the voice of a fictional character. What is really intriguing musically about “Khoj” is the intermixing of an oft serious theme i.e. ‘how life treats each of us’ with music that is so jumpy, so spunky. The third track, especially, has such hard-hitting lyrics, it’s not difficult to feel a sense of the macabre in it.
By the next three songs, Na Jaane Kyun, Nishabd and Ashayein, you know that the band is just showing off their ability to melt and mould different genres to create a unique sound. These three tracks are probably the most pop-oriented songs that the band has worked on. While this adds to the balance within the music on the album itself, what it also does thematically is it compensates the fasts and slows; the good and the bad in the life of the protagonist, and the avid listener too. Next up is Tum, which is another super versatile song. While the song may seem like a love ballad at first listen, it is not difficult to hook onto the ‘self’ as the subject here. Also, the inclusion of short bursts of guitar solos by Dharmajan makes this song extremely enjoyable.
The next three songs kick in the progressive element of their music. The instrumental Shoonya seems to be the three minute escape that every instrumentalist in the band wanted incorporated in the album. Starting off with Pink Floyd-esque sound samples, the song proceeds to some intense solos and riffs, and is probably the most kickass song on their live set. Aur and Khoj are like the precursors to an impending finale. While the music is technically heavier, what really elevate the songs are vocalist Ganesh’s variations in singing throughout. Khoj, in fact, brings a closure of sorts to the whirlwind that is the album’s music. The final track on the album, Intezaar features classical Indian singer, Rini Rajput, and is a very sublime ending to the album.
The absence of a strong bass line renders the album a little flat, but besides that there is little one can complain about this album and the fantastic music it encompasses.