• Fri, Feb 26, 2021
Reviews

Fuzzculture Contrasts Elaborate Arrangements With Accessibility

7.0

album Reviews Jan 19, 09:19am

The Mumbai artist’s new EP ‘Strange Cities’ puts a whole plethora of sounds into songs that hide some of that intricacy behind strong hooks
 Photo Courtesy: Chetan Morajkar

This new EP from Mumbai electronica and dance-pop artist Fuzzculture (or Arsh Sharma on a census) is by far his most densely packed and sonically ‘free’ release so far, that much can be said without any doubt. The five-song release packs an absolute truckload of interesting touches and instrumentation; there are more synths here than you’ll find on Amazon, controlled drones, a large variety of drums and percussion, a bunch of acoustic instruments like a harp, some trumpet… there is a lot to hear here. The initially odd thing about it is that all this bombast is packaged into songs that are almost… simple? It’s this combination that really makes ‘Strange Cities’ interesting at the very least.

It should firstly be said that ‘Strange Cities’ is a stylistically different release to Arsh’s earlier work. His past releases had a definite rock-oriented edge to them; guitars played prominent roles as riffs and parts that drove the songs. There was distortion and drums that were hard-hitting and in your face. This release eschews that approach in favour of a more smooth presentation. Melodies are altogether more poppy here. Synths do most of the work and drums are more live-sounding and loose. Slinky keys, background synths and the aforementioned acoustic elements provide all the atmosphere. Case in point: ‘Strange Cities’ with its instrumental hook. Guitars make an appearance for a short but catchy solo in the middle of the track, but a range of catchy vocal melodies and the synth that acts as the ‘chorus’ push the song in a much more agreeable and less aggressive. This track also shows the contrast of the production on the EP.

 

 

There’s a lot going on here, but it seems like all of it is waiting to be found on a future listen. It really is rather strange once you catch all the disparate sounds that are doing their thing around that simple hook that sticks in your head. ‘Nicotine’ features trumpets and truly lush keys that do get their time to shine, but only around a refrain that is so earworm-y that it blows everything else out of focus. Again, the arrangement is so excellent and dense but it seems to live in the shadows except for another excellent lead guitar section. These two tracks are separated from the EP’s last two, dancier songs by an instrumental ‘Brief Encounters’ where everything is finally left to breathe; this is the most involved song here and Arsh’s control of sounds is put on show. It’s a treat and the chords alone are a standout. ‘Starlight’ and ‘Mr. Murder’ feature perhaps the most on-the-nose hooks here and higher tempos. ‘Starlight’ has some nice percussion but features a relatively sparse (considering the rest of the EP) sonic palate here, which allows the lead synth to get more screen time. ‘Mr. Murder’ is perhaps the most off-kilter and sample-laden track of the five and also one of the most interesting. The drums are great, the vocal snatches are great, the instrumental interludes that keeps getting rudely interrupted by mega kicks… it’s a great way to round everything off.

Whether you like this idea of having so much complexity that sits behind pop sensibilities is probably a matter of taste. In a way, ‘Strange Cities’ is wonderful because it has close to endless replay value; once the hooks get tired and the melodies start to wear, there is so much stuff going on behind the scenes that you’re always going to catch something odd or new that you never did before. On the other hand, it does seem like a substantial waste to do all the interesting and experimental work and then put it behind a bunch of pop lines that don’t have anywhere near as much mileage as what lies beneath them. Either way, these two sides do exist, so no matter what side you land on, Fuzzculture makes sure it’s worth a shot.

Listen to 'Strange Cities' on Apple Music here. It comes out on all platforms January 29.

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