• Mon, Nov 30, 2020
Reviews

Krameri Combines Influences With Aplomb On New Album

8.5

album Reviews Oct 27, 03:17pm

‘Hampstead’ is a strong example of using fusion, indie and electronic sounds judiciously; the excellent songwriting does nothing but improve it

Vadodara artist Damini Chauhan AKA Krameri has more than a fledgling discography; her debut album ‘Dreams Of A Unicorn’ came out back in 2017 and has been followed by a bunch of singles and EPs. Her new album ‘Hampstead’ does something that takes talent and guts; it takes many disparate sounds and forms a cohesive and utterly enjoyable whole. Picking influences apart is one thing, but taking many of them and coming through with a solid project isn’t always easy. Damini does it with confidence. Result: a flat-out great album.

There’s a bunch of sounds to unpack here. Nocturnal synths. Indian classical atmosphere (one would put it into the fusion box, but here it’s used sparingly and doesn’t compete with everything else; an approach artists who want to use such sounds should try out more often). Alternative r&b. Pop (not so much but it’s there if you search for it). Piano-tinged folk. Disparate, sure, but especially in the last couple of years, many of these sounds have been present in the lonely, intimately personal and muted music that mainstream artists have been increasingly gravitating towards. The production on ‘Hampstead’ is very much in the quiet vein. Sounds don’t often explode into focus or directly grab attention, instead allowing the songs themselves to build it. Of course, all this goes over very well because the ten tracks here are strong and don’t merit skips.

‘Hampstead’ is emotionally entertaining from the get-go. Opening track ‘Loving You’ is a shy and symphonic piano ballad for the most part that features subtly doubled vocals and a sense of theater; this song would have comfortably landed on ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ (the one Lana Del Rey album you should never miss) and none would be the wiser. In fact, that album is a relevant one to bring up because its sense of modern loneliness and pop-rooted sensibilities of lost love is very much a main thread here. The track is good enough if left there, but out of nowhere, a slow synthwave groove pops up and really takes it up many notches. The surprise is kept up throughout the album; ‘All This Time’ features classical vocals and stuttering electronic drums as short interludes between a lovelorn, skeletal vocal melody. This is heady stuff, and Damini makes sure the momentum is not lost.

 

 

‘Lonely In My Head’ features subtle autotune (like what makes Frank Ocean's ‘Blond’ so great) and more low-key grooves, but the subtle Indian instrumentation hiding in the mix is what makes the song. ‘Now It’s Complicated’ has a definite pop edge to it, but the production sure as hell doesn’t, using theatrical sounds and an oddly sequenced trap beat you might hear on some old Casio. That vibe continues in ‘Hightgate Cemetery’ as more unrequited love and loss live with strings. Damini’s vocals are incredibly suited to the low-volume, half-whispered sound of sad late-night music, and she sensibly chooses to stay in that space for all of the 35 minutes of music here. All of these ideas come together even better on ‘Silver’, a highlight amongst all the good material here. It is yet again a slow piano ballad that again, without warning, brings in a dance-pop groove in to its chorus. The surprise is the same on repeated listens; this is a groove you would have heard in a 2003 chart-topper or some mid-2010s tropical song, and it’s here fulfilling an understated role in a wistful pop-folk tune. It really has no business fitting in as well as it does, and this is something Damini gets right time and time again. ‘Dark Days’ has a more loose and angular delivery which gives it a much more dramatic feel; the strings have more impact here than on other occasions. ‘It Was Cold’ has one of the more direct vocal lines here, but it’s supported by quietly sequenced drums and a more repetitive delivery. ‘Painting Illusions’ is perhaps the most jarring track on here with its layered, robotic vocals and harsh drums, but it ends up being yet another switch up; the fact that it’s the album’s closer is a commendable.

There’s no mistaking the fact that ‘Hampstead’ is an interesting and quirky album. Maybe its only point of contention is that its modus operandi becomes pretty apparent a few tracks in. It doesn’t have the biggest bag of tricks and stays in the exact same emotional space all the way through, but one could contend that it is all the more interesting for it. It uses its limited palate not to blow you away but provides a series of small nudges and surprises that don’t get old. If you have the time and space to participate in an involved listening experience with a bunch of little things that will delight you, this album is essentially that to a T.

Listen to 'Hampstead' by Krameri here.

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