(Artwork by Rahul Das)
Forget about the novelty for a second here – yes, it’s oddball music, fresh, never done before, unique in the indie space, blah blah. Who cares. Hex 1/Visions, the debut release by Delhi’s SundogProject, goes a little beyond just the frills. It’s a personal listening experience, a very intense one at that. This is an album, not a collection of the first six tracks the band managed to record before running out of money – all the songs have been crafted and pieced together with great care to create a vaguely dissonant synthesis.
The unsteady trills on the synth introducing the first song itself, ‘Parhelion’, establish that trajectory of the record quite emphatically. The magnetism of the music – a sort of tangle between Radiohead-and-Warp-Records infused electronica, drudgy industrial, alternative and experimental rock terrains, dark pop, and Nine Inch Nails – is offset by the alienating and brooding undercurrent that feeds the narrative of Hex 1/Visions. The listener can, beyond simple visceral appreciation, seek out meaningful redemption through the record. Yes, it’s a distant and elusive possibility, and the music can get tough to really sink your teeth into, but as with a lot of aspirational and ambitious art, the payoff here is completely worth it.
Dark and murky territories serve as the underlying motif on the SundogProject’s debut release, through the lumbering bass-and-drum interplay and the whispered passages, as also the uncomfortable synth and vocal melodies that run through the album. Nevertheless, frequent counterpoints and bursts of sound and uplifting melody keep springing out from underneath the shadows for respite and balance. So, when ‘Venus’, the one song where the guitars take centre-stage, ends on one of the highest points of the record with an out-section that explodes momentarily before finishing all too quickly, the ominous pounding on ‘Face/3’ takes over instantly to resettle the mood, before once again reaching a powerful peak after an eight-minute long upsurge. This swiveling pattern, and the concurrent mood shifts it brings, is a particular highlight here, as songs are allowed to breathe and mature, and they slowly reach their rightful conclusion through orchestration, layering, and arrangement that builds and adds to existing moods.
Now, on to the vocals, which could potentially be the one true polarizing element in an album that has many. It’s a diffident style, with loads of whispers, half-singing-half-intense-screaming, unsettling and offbeat melodies and harmonies, and a fair sprinkling of Trent Reznor, if we are to be picky. They do have a tendency of functioning as really strange earworms, though, as on ‘Hole’ or ‘Witching Hour’. For this writer, the vocals work – it’s essentially something that’ll either work for a listener or won’t, based on taste and how one consumes the music. They serve as an intrinsic facet of the SundogProject’s sound, accentuating, enhancing, and complementing as required, for the most part. However, one major complaint with the vocal delivery, and consequently the album, is the repetitive nature of the singing. The arrangement of individual songs lends a certain degree of versatility and stylistic departures and divergences, but the vocals get repetitive often, and sometimes predictable, lending a hazy similarity to the songs at times. Maybe that’s what affords the aforementioned synthesis of thought that Hex 1/Visions has, or maybe the singing takes away from it just a bit. In any case, here’s a rare record that genuinely commands private time spent with it to really understand its depth.
Stream Hex 1/Visions by SundogProject below:
Download the entire album here
Previous ArticleReverrse Polarity - Reverrse Polarity
Next ArticleThe Bacardi NH7 Weekender - NCR, Nov 30 - Dec 1