• Thu, Jul 25, 2024
Reviews

Delhi Artist Akash Vincent's 'Ember' Brings Much-Needed Flavour To Indie-Pop Music

8.5

album Reviews Sep 20, 12:27pm

An overdone sound injected with interesting influences suddenly makes it sound substantive; scientists are baffled
 Photo Courtesy: Ankit Bannerjee

This idea of making music with skeletal acoustic guitars and plaintive vocals about something relatable and emotionally ‘meaningful’ has been done so many times that even the people writing about it (like us) sound like broken records, let alone those actually creating the stuff.

This obviously isn’t the artists’ fault. There’s a reason why the indie/quiet-pop sound is borderline ubiquitous today; it’s reliable and still sounds great. It’s what ‘sincerely made entertainment’ strives to be; good quality created with simple tools without pretense. Indie music of the 2000s fulfilled these requirements by virtue of its form alone, so it produced great art. Of course, this also resulted in everyone and their pet fish doing it, overplaying it into the ground over the following decade. Delhi artist Akash Vincent introduces welcome variety while staying true to the form, so his third EP ‘Ember’ is not bland or boring at all.

The ‘variety’ here is to bring influences from the classical sphere into simple acoustic indie-folk songs, and this idea will make sense to you the second you start listening. A varied as style and genre can be, the acoustic guitars played by Francisco Tarrega and Fleet Foxes work according to the same laws of physics, so it works on paper to an extent. But in practice, the combination ends up as a sum of its parts; Akash has to put a bit more effort into his vocal melodies to stand out from his guitar playing, and the guitars provide a more layered, interesting foundation than just strummed chords. Win-win!

 

 

There are four songs to listen to on this. ‘Lines’ has a clapped rhythm, some flair in the guitar playing, and a shaker; one would be rightly tempted to assume some sort of West European appropriation. But the actual song lying on top of it is a 6/8 ballad with some creative chord choices and an upfront vocal delivery; no hushed whispers or half-murmurs on this one. It’s hard to overstate just how much some sauce on the guitars improves the listening experience of what is a pretty simple tune. There’s a gentler, more dramatic approach on ‘Piece By Piece’, which is skeletal, ghostly and absolutely gorgeous (shades of some Yorke/Greenwood-style writing in the melodies here, especially the second half).

‘Stay’ is the ‘contemporary’ (relatively) one of the four. It’s a slow, summery song which seems to guide the listener towards its lyrics more than anything else. One will also find some quiet drums, clarinet and bass in the arrangement; these are nice touches, but the song maybe goes a bit too far in the minimalist direction (if you’re into the contemplative side of indie music, you’ll love this one). The EP ends with ‘Traces’, another 6/8 ballad with maybe the most emotional depth of all the songs here; most heartfelt delivery, really expressive playing, the lot.

The key word to ‘Ember’ is tasteful. There isn’t really a moment where the balance of classical-ish instrumental flourishes, solid indie writing and strong performances tips towards any one of these things. A more expressive guitar parts makes itself heard only when there’s nothing it might overshadow. Akash uses his most flowery lyrics only after stripping everything else down. That allows him to include ideas on the EP that active our ‘indie pattern recognition’ while sounding interesting enough to differentiate it from the approximately 12 quintillion other indie-folk-pop releases out there. Good stuff.

 

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