If we look back at 2021, it is hard to remember when it began and when it ended. Just as the year seemed to be recovering from the pandemic carnage of the year before it, we got hit by a second wave. Maybe it was the realisation that we’re doomed, or maybe it was being shaken out of a stupor and thrown into the ‘now or never’ moment, but the electronic music industry saw a lot of new talent finally releasing a track.
Perhaps, the best way to understand how the landscape of electronic music talent in India was in 2021 would be to listen to the compilations. And boy were there plenty of them. Labels that have been dormant for years made a comeback with stellar compilations as well as new faces made their mark.
Here’s a wrap up from the ones that caught our attention-
Consolidate – Fresh Water Vol 2 & Fresh Water Vol 1
Of the major metros in India, it can be argued that Bangalore has always led the charge in the burgeoning alternative scene. This year, Consolidate celebrated five years of providing a platform to Bangalore’s alternative talent with the compilation series ‘Fresh Water’. To be honest, there is nothing we could say, that wouldn’t be better described by the experimental and honest quality of the two volumes released under the series. Many of the artists, like Disco Puppet and RHL, have steadily been gaining recognition on the alternative scene. If this compilation is a peek into the shape of things to come, we can be assured that there is a lot more where they come from.
AsymetriK – SOS
This was also the year when techno legend Arjun Vagale started taking his moniker AsymetriK to places. When the second wave was ravaging across the country, Arjun gathered his close associates and put out a compilation that raised funds through its sales towards Hemkunt Foundation, which was widely recognised for carrying out on-ground efforts of helping COVID patients. The compilation is reported to have successfully raised nearly 1 lakh INR in the first 24 hours of its release.
Onno Collective – rough cuts
If Bangalore is the hub of alternative music, Kolkata is truly the centre for left field sounds. Last year (2020), Social Isolation by Varun Desai paved the way for Indian ambient music in the midst of the pandemic. This year, 10 leftfield producers from Kolkata including Haved Jabib, TITO+, Ritwik and Diaspora came together as part of ‘rough cuts’, the first compilation by new audiovisual collective ONNO COLLECTIVE. In a scene that is dominated by dance music, onno collective heralded the coming of field recordings and acid house.
Differed Records – Underground Variants
While Consolidate represents the alternative facet of Bangalore, Differed Records brings us music based around the club-friendly four-on-the-floor rhythms. With their first compilation Underground Variants adds a bunch of new artists to the bucket that represents artists who produce for the dance floor. The tracks oscillate from trance anthems to melodic techno rhythms, hoping to diversify line-ups which are soon to run their course.
Krunk Kulture – Jaljeera
At this point Krunk is probably a veteran at releasing compilations and they do them pretty well too. Their latest, Jaljeera, is a charged up, powerful one that throws together a few polished and few new artists to explore genres like electro and industrial. Krunk’s dedication towards promoting works by Indian artists has set it up for becoming a major international label representing the most unique talent from the country.
Boxoutfm Recordings – Suchi Selects
It would be highly redundant to introduce the role boxout has played in the electronic music industry. While the news of them launching a record label had been in the air for a while, this year they debuted the label with the compilation. Continuing their tradition of spotlighting the role of a curator, they plan multiple compilations where each will feature handpicked local producers that represent the sound of the curator, while giving the listeners a taste of the current soundscape in India.
Qilla Records – Forte, Vol. 9
The end of the year has seen a renewed interest in D&B and bass music, with this compilation under 4NCY coming out in November and now a label as eponymous as Qilla, delving into it. The Forte series has been Qilla’s compilation series for a couple of years now. Usually it has represented the best techno talent in the country, which has been the sound of the label. This year though, they have released a D&B compilation as the ninth volume in the series. With some known and lesser known names on the compilation, we’re impressed but not surprised by the quality of music coming out of the label.
If we go by the compilations, 2021 was the year when electronic music in India hit the refresh button while also holding on to its status quo. Earlier in the year we also wrote about this debut compilation launched by Regnerate, the Mumbai based promoter label.
It was also the year where we saw the underground electronic music community coming together to raise their voice for social causes. We’ve written about this compilation that was released in support of farmers’ protest.
As we step into 2022, with the third wave making its presence felt, we hope that some of these compilations will translate into EPs and albums for the artists featured and labels will continue on the path of showcasing new and unheard talent.