• Sun, Apr 30, 2017
Reviews

Smooth, Relax - Smooth, Relax

6.5

album Reviews Apr 02, 03:13pm

A review of Delhi's lo-fi, indie, post-punk duo Smooth, Relax's self-titled debut album. 

Sounding like shit and yet sounding good is a delicate skill, even if the first part of it has been mastered by many. Smooth, Relax, with their album Smooth, Relax (a song on the album is also called ‘Smooth, Relax’), are trying to hit the jackpot by nailing both. The debut release by this Delhi duo, with songs rarely stretching beyond the one- or two-minute mark, is a slightly difficult listen, what with its scattered flow and the glaringly lo-fi sound, with plenty of highs and peaks through its short duration. The carefully orchestrated indifference directed at frivolous elements of music – like playing in time; recording instruments that can actually, you know, be heard; audio production, the works – is, oddly enough, quite endearing. The aesthetic employed here, one that’s been borrowed heavily from post-punk pioneers Joy Division, is easy, really: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

A no frills approach allows the band to write earnest alt-rock music driven forward by the shiny chords and little flicks on the guitar, before the occasional solo – as on ‘Salivation, Education’ – scrambles to the surface.  The sporadic singing in this quirky 14-minute long, nine-song record again retains a post-punk half-singing-half-screaming dynamic. Calling the compositions on Smooth, Relax ‘songs’ wouldn’t be appropriate – they’re more like little vignettes or doodles of music with repetitive guitar melodies, a barely audible rhythm section, and insistent vocal lines that appear somewhat mysteriously, whenever they do, with ‘Try and Stop Me’ possibly the most fully formed creation here, and possibly even the most representative of the sound. The singing ‘songs’ have been bookmarked with four short meandering instrumental designs – titled, you guessed it, ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, and ‘4’ and which sound just a little like Sonic Youth’s alter-ego SYR experiments on decaf and very stripped down – that lend a see-saw quality to Smooth, Relax. And make no mistake – the casual, dismissive attitude towards conventions of acceptable songwriting, production, and album-structuring modes that this album seemingly reeks of is basically a façade meant to hide the thought put into creating this minimalist ode to a scratchy, raw post-punk sound that, by all accounts, hasn’t been heard all that much in India in the pre-internet era; the PR machines of the companies that own Joy Division’s and New Order’s music have obviously not done a great job convincing us about the inherent coolness of the music.

It is very cool though, which is not to say that this writer loves or hates it. It’s a pleasant release which has its own space, but until the ideas are taken to some kind of a conclusion – whether rightful or otherwise – Smooth, Relax and Smooth, Relax are basically in suspended motion with potentially a lot to offer. 

 

Stream Smooth, Relax's self-titled debut below: 

 

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