• Sat, Sep 26, 2020
Reviews

Fakeer And The Arc Show A Lot Of Promise On Debut EP

7.5

album Reviews Jun 15, 01:09pm

‘Ikigai’ from the Bangalore hip-hop band is a heady combination of awesome production, live instrumentation and hip-hop sensibilities
 Photo Courtesy: Fakeer and The Arc

The Roots are the definitive hip-hop band, but somewhere in the last decade, having live bands playing behind a rapper gathered steam. We can have a long conversation about this; was it Anderson. Paak’s Tiny Desk Concert? Was it Freddie Gibbs and Madlib doing their stuff live? It doesn’t matter, though. In India, Bangalore, unsurprisingly, has started making forward-thinking jazz-rap and teaming rappers with complex live instrumentation. Fakeer with jazz trio The Arc as his backing band have combined forces for a very confident and fun debut EP.

‘Ikigai’ (for that is its name) is a really masterful work in its production and quality of performances. It’s only three tracks and ten minutes long, but every second of it has subtlety and, more than anything else, pedigree. It’s blindingly obvious from the first second of opener ‘Burn’ that all the musicians involved are pretty damn good at what they do. Oran Brahma (Fakeer) interacts with the band in a pretty interesting way, sometimes taking focus away from the instrumentation onto himself with his flow and sometimes just being another component and letting the other sounds take the song forward. The Arc (Aniket Roy Chowdhury fronting, drummer Shubham Bhardwaj and bassist Lalsang "Donnie" Phaipi) have a similar sensibility, pulling back when needed and taking the reins on the EP’s many fantastic passages. The production, though pretty normal for genres like this, is clean and uses a pretty dry sound for the rhythm section, allowing the guitars to be warm and wobbly and all the other things we like to see in jazz and soul. Considering there are only three songs on the EP, it’s important that a short release leaves some sort of impression on the listener. It does.

 

 

‘Ikigai’ starts off with ‘Burn’, possibly the most varied and fun song here. The band’s grasp of genre is evident from the intro, a smooth section with feel-good chords, a groove that’s deeper than most trenches and sweet vocals. The song goes from strength to strength, going to a pretty laid-back and jazzy section with a relatively calm delivery. A few changes of pace later, the last third of the track picks up with a killer guitar solo that is followed by a more strident verse. It’s such a great ending to the track that you forget how slowly it started. ‘Feel The Fire’ is a funkier affair with its excellent transitions, switch-ups and hook. The song stays in largely the same space the whole song, but it’s a real head-nodder. Closer ‘Sandman’ is a reimagined version of Pat Ballard’s now-standard ‘Mr.Sandman’ (you might have heard a version by The Chordettes, Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris or any number of artists that have recorded it), and it’s a fresh take. It features Fakeer rapping over the iconic guitar line (made extra woozy and lo-fi for this purpose) back by a super chill half-time groove. It’s a cool version, but it’s better to just think of it as its own thing; as a song that can be imagined to sample ‘Mr.Sandman’, it’s rather charming.

Fakeer and The Arc, among other artists, are starting to morph Indian hip-hop into something else; growing it from its roots it established a couple of years back. We are playing catch-up with the genre as countries where it started decades ago are doing new things. However, we seem to learning fast, and having some of these not-bohot-hard but still interesting releases helps us use the genre better. ‘Ikigai’ is a fun listen even for people who aren’t that into bars and rhyming schemes and flows and so on. It has that too, though.

Listen to 'Ikigai' here.

 

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