• Wed, Nov 14, 2018
Reviews

Second Sight: The Violet Hour EP Review

7.0

album Reviews Oct 23, 08:29pm

Mumbai’s indie innovators 'Second Sight' are quirky and intimate on their new (short) release
 Photo Courtesy: chakram productions, second sight

Indie singer-songwriters/duos are rather popular in this day and age; sometimes getting a band together is hard and writing music from a skeletal, mostly acoustic perspective has a certain freedom and charm that other setups might not have. There are more advantages to the style, of course; producing music only requires a bedroom, a guitar and an imagination. Playing live also guarantees more creative control and the ability to play around with the form of one’s own music without too much difficulty. But of course, the reason there aren’t a zillion reputed artists running around in the genre (there are loads online, but not many make it) is that the relative ease of making music manifests itself in a basic lack of effort on the artists’ end. They mistake simplicity and clarity for laziness and blandness. Not Second Sight though. The Mumbai mostly-duo’s (sometimes trio or larger, depending on the situation) well-crafted new EP ‘The Violet Hour’ is curious, shy, and (sporadically) genuinely beautiful.

 


Firstly, it must be said that Second Sight does have something different to offer sonically; a vocal style that is characterized by the interplay and interweaving of its two vocalists (Anusha Ramasubramoney and Pushkar Srivatsal, to wit.) They rarely, if at all, allow any one member to take first priority in a vocal melody; instead, they combine two voices throughout the four songs on ‘The Violet Hour’, giving the music tons of added body and personality. They also share guitar duties; Pushkar play on ‘Esperar’ and ‘Follow You’ while Anusha handles ‘Blood’ (an EP standout) and ‘Remember’. They are supported by a full cast of musicians on different tracks; the eerie, keep-you-up-at-night string quartet on ‘Blood’ (Prayash Biswakarma, Shirish Malhotra, Magdalena Dad and Abhinav Khokhar) gives an already dark piece added shades of black. Additional flutes by Shirish Malhotra highlight the inherent bitterness in opening track 'Esperar’. The smart inclusion of atmosphere and backing instrumentation at appropriate times makes the songs so much more than a collection of simple ideas.
That being said, there is no lack of stimulating thoughts and stories on 'The Violet Hour’. The EP’s closing track ‘Remember (Cherie)’ turns the melody-driven storytelling of the previous tracks on its head, swapping sung vocals for a spoken word performance delivered over some ambient background instrumentation.

 

 

The words themselves speak wistfully of love (and loss thereof), but the song itself is devoid of the emotions one would usually connect with the subject matter. Even though it might alienate some listeners; the rest of the songs are layered and subtle while ‘Remember’ is delivered coldly and directly with no pretense or mincing of words, it is an interesting and compelling image to leave the listener with at the end of the listening experience. Opener ‘Esperar’ is a good snapshot of the EP’s musical palate; an interesting thing about Anusha and Pushkar’s vocal interplay is that they aren’t having a conversation with each other but are finishing each other’s sentences. They do not want the listener to think of themselves as two separate voices but instead two facets of a single identity. Some beautiful flute work supports the vocals but is purposely kept restrained and further back in the mix. ‘Follow You’ is also in a similar vein but the ideas in the song are more fleshed out and given time to breathe. Though the guitars are mostly squeaky clean and sterile, they provide a good base for Pushkar’s lower register (which really shines here.) The cello and violins really pull the track through some of its more dragged-out sections, providing tension and release where the rest of the the elements seem stagnant. The pacing of the song is controlled very well throughout; the verse-chorus structure gives the song a sense of expectation and waiting, and even though the song has a positive vibe, the listener has a sense that the song is walking on ice a bit; the outro seems to confirm this with a forlorn, almost hopeless acapella refrain. But where the instrumentation, songwriting and ambition really come together is ‘Blood’. The subject matter, while heavy, is covered in metaphors and references, so the real thrust of the song is the vibe it creates. And man, is it dark. The vocal harmonies are on point but there’s something dissonant and creepy about them. The string section shines the brightest by far here; the violins are painfully lonely and the swells that support the vocals are perfectly placed. The main violin melody occupies the gaps between the vocals refrain and sound like they would sit perfectly well in the darkest frames of any medieval TV show. The atmosphere of hopelessness is palpable, and at the same time it is beautiful; you find yourself accepting defeat and embracing loss, but at no point do you stop listening.

 


It has to be said, though, that ‘The Violet Hour’ is not for everyone. The EP deals in themes are metaphors more than relatable, direct storytelling, so anyone not willing to give the lyrics a certain amount of thought or thinks in primary colours (a lot of music in the genre deals in simply told, vivid stories) will probably ignore the subjects covered in the songs. Even though there are many elements to the instrumentation, they are all held back in the mix and placed behind the vocals, so sometimes the change-ups and transitions are slightly jarring because the other instruments aren’t prominent enough to make them smooth. Even so, it is one of the more interesting and nuanced indie releases in a while, and you would be a fool to not give it enough listens to appreciate what Second Sight is trying to achieve.  

 

 

 

 

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