• Mon, Dec 11, 2023
Reviews

Kolkata Band Universe In A Crayon Stays Out Of The Doldrums On Debut EP

6.5

album Reviews May 10, 05:59pm

In a land where entertainment is often sacrificed for virtuosity, ‘Somewhere In Between’ knows better

Is, of all things, prog coming back with a refreshing, not-so-serious attitude to life? The genre of late has become that elder person who refuses to wear anything other than 80s guitar-god merch and claims that music died at some point during their youth; having interesting thoughts but in a world that seems to have passed them by. This is of course greatly due to the era of elitism and superiority in taste that many of us music fans were part of in the late 2000s/early 2010s, and now it sounds like a long and crabby rant is coming up, so let’s stop here.

We all know this short history, so let’s talk about the present. Kolkata proggers (that’s like rockers or rappers, but for prog; is this a thing?) Universe In A Crayon started out around 2019, and this is their first actual release except for one early demo. So they’re early in their career as a band, and their EP ‘Somewhere In Between’ is 20-odd minutes of prog. They cite the same influences as countless other artists in this lane (they opened for Plini recently too), and they have almost the same production style as everyone else (which has basically been standardized at this point). So we have a clear picture of their music, but it’s their upbeat writing which makes it interesting.

There’s no doom and gloom to be found here, and that’s fresh. ‘Skyline’ has arpeggiated videogame synths over odd-time grooves and choppy riffs a la hundreds of other bands, but here, it’s almost sunny. It’s not crushed to death, it’s not brooding and it’s actually, as one Youtube comment on their EP’s video (down below) says, ‘pleasant music’. Their breakdown has big strings and a sense of drama to it, and their outro is a quiet, rather gorgeous little acoustic guitar part. (side note: the band does not really mention Devin Townsend as an influence, but perhaps they should). Even ‘Shooting Star’, for all its riff-heavy posturing, still retains that almost innocent and sweet vibe with its classic rock-god lead guitar and indie-pop-rock bridge (shout out to the bass tone on this song). ‘Headspace’ leans completely into the indie sound; the first half will fit happily on a romcom and is all the more fun for it, though the song’s second half does suffer a bit as a consequence in spite of its big finish. Then we have the proggiest (and perhaps most disjointed) track on here, ‘Drive’ (feat. Bishwadeep Sikder), which has the standard jagged motifs, must-have piano, and the most compressed tones. And we’re done! There are four songs on here; the band does a great job of not overstaying their welcome.

It’s not always sunshine and rainbows over the course of ‘Somewhere In Between’; the band does occasionally succumb to the dangers of their chosen genre and end with sections where the ‘coolness’ or ‘complexity’ (if that) of a part ends up taking precedence over how things actually sound. But for the most part, Universe In A Crayon gets one crucial thing right, and that’s their approach. No dark, nocturnal, vague meditations on the world and waveforms that look like literal bricks. This band is truly enjoying themselves, and you can so easily tell. Their writing is uplifting. Instead of breakdowns that break your brain, they throw in section inspired by rock music. Instead of couching their parts in droning ambience, they put it in front of sounds that would work in an open-world RPG. This is the right way forward, and it might just bring the genre back. Maybe it has.

 

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