Chicken soup for the musical soul

Published: Sep 25, 2019, 07:00 IST | Shunashir Sen

A premier indie-alternative band is launching an album that comes from a place of contemplation

(From left) Sambit Chatterjee with Uddipan Sarmah, Shubham Gurung (both standing) and Robert Alex of Aswekeepsearching. 
Pic courtesy/Taaha Dhariwal
(From left) Sambit Chatterjee with Uddipan Sarmah, Shubham Gurung (both standing) and Robert Alex of Aswekeepsearching. Pic courtesy/Taaha Dhariwal

There are some albums that come from a place similar to a house with an after-party in full flow, where the music is thumping and inebriated people are immersed in such loud conversation that the neighbours wake up and call the guards (The Clash's London Calling is one such record). But when we ask Uddipan Sarmah of Mumbai and Pune-based indie act Aswekeepsearching to name one place Rooh, the band's third studio offering, came from, he says, "It originates in a wide empty room that's painted completely white, with just one piece of furniture in a corner where we spend most of our time. It's located far from a chaotic or noisy space and is instead all about nature, even if it's a love song."

That seems like a fair enough assessment. Rooh comes across as a deeply contemplative effort for which the band has closed its door to the material world. Even when the music does get somewhat upbeat, like it does in the title track, the song's more akin to a storm that threatens to brew before dissipating after merely rustling some leaves.

Then there are tunes like A Night in Zottegem, which you can liken to a gloriously sunny day when you have nothing to do apart from curling up with a book next to your window and watching the world go by when you lift your eyes up. In fact, staying with books, you can even view the album as a musical take on Chicken Soup for the Soul, the best-selling literary series meant to soothe people's spirits and minds.

And if that's indeed the case, the band has come some distance from the "post-rock" material that some people classified their earlier albums as. One can actually go as far as to say that Rooh is genre-agnostic. Sure, there are still some noticeable post-rock elements in songs like Aas Paas.

But then there are other tracks like Eneke Najaaba where Sarmah seems to borrow from Indian folk and classical traditions to mould his vocals along similar lines. This is thus a more nuanced album, where the growing years of the artistes reflect in their choice of soundscape. Sarmah confirms as much. "The difference between us today and us earlier is that in 2017 [the year of their last album, Zia] we used to party till 7 in the morning. But we now prefer to hit the bed at 11.30 at night, and then wake up and think about the band," he tells us, reiterating how and why Rooh doesn't come from a place where unsteady people are filtering drunkenly out of a house after the guards have busted their raucous after-party up.

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