• Sat, Sep 25, 2021
Reviews

Six Flying Whales Goes Exploring On Wide-Ranging New Album

9.0

album Reviews Aug 15, 10:05am

‘Return To Sea’ is one of the most unique things you’ll hear this year
 Photo Courtesy: Copycat Design

Six Flying Whales is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Mayur Nanda (if you were in Bangalore in the mid-2010s, bands like Stuck In November and Maneating Orchid would be familiar to you; Mayur is in both). While his talent is obvious, this release shows a lot about his creative approach to two things: songwriting and making a longform project. ‘Return To Sea’ does so many interesting things. It incorporates odd 70s prog-folk, music you’d find in an old cartoon and psych. It’s about half an hour long but consists of sixteen tiny little tracks. It covers an enormous amount of ground both conceptually and musically. And the most impressive thing? It somehow does all of this really well.

Considering the psychedelic angle of the project, it’s no surprise that the sonic direction of it is a bit of a wide net. There’s all sorts of stuff going on here. Accordions, melodica, ukulele, guitars both acoustic and electric, keys and synth, some percussion, you name it. And it all sounds very… comfortable in a sense. Nothing really tends to jump out at you to unsettle your ear; elements don’t suddenly crash into each other for theatrical effect. Everything tends to live in its own little place in the mix so that it can perform when Mayur calls its name. The accordion, for example, has moments where it just pokes its head above everything else for a little melody, and then it lets something else take the lead. This is not easy to pull off, balancing a bunch of sounds without relying too much on one or the other. Of course, it also helps that the songs have a freedom to them despite their brevity.

 

 

So, sixteen songs, all in the range of one to three minutes. Too short, some would say. Not Mayur. He goes with the soundscape route and makes little miniature pieces that have their own little arcs to them. The old Minecraft soundtracks were brilliant at this, and the more rootsy prog direction ‘Under The Sea’ is perfect for this presentation too. The result? Some incredibly fun tiny journeys that conjure up images of something you’d find in an old animated movie or a fever dream. The title track is built on the ukulele and goes from quietness to a big waltz with an 8-bit synth going away in the background, and then there’s one the most evocative minutes on the album where structure gives way to what sounds like ambient vocals and the slightest bit of dissonance. ‘A Perfect Sandcastle’ has the cartoon staple of accordion, keys and woodblocks. The bassline on here is silently the focus, much like the similarly upbeat ‘Toy Soldiers’. ‘Nasty Surprises’ takes a slightly more contemplative turn with its more ‘solid’ groove and thumps of bass. ‘Little Blubber’ brings in modulated guitar for yet another great, woozy moment. The groove is very 70s rock (or latin, but who’s asking?) and for the few seconds that you can hear it, it’s a treat. The album is simply full of these, and every moment of the sixteen tracks you hear brings something interesting and unique that changes your emotional anchor or reinforces it.

Sure, ‘Return To Sea’ is half an hour long and basically consists of a large number of musical titbits, but don’t be under the assumption that it’s just disparate musical ideas. The music on this album is made with precision and a great deal of talent, and the result is a listening experience that is, above all, cohesive. Six Flying Whales has done a brilliant job here, and one would doubt you’d find too many other releases this idiosyncratic and unique over the year.

Listen here.

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