An ode to Mumbai and it’s chaos- Drum आणि Bass’ Debut Album 1403

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Imagine yourself in Mumbai, in the midst of a Ganpathi Visarjan celebration, soaking in the chaos of drums and drowning in the sound of bass. Perhaps, you’ve never been to Mumbai during Visarjan, or at all? Drum आणि Bass have got you covered. Just find the best pair of headphones that you can, pop on their album and you’ll magically be teleported to the sounds of Mumbai.

Brainchild of bass player Nathan Thomas and drummer Dhir Mody , Drum आणि Bass evolved out of improvised jungle/drum n bass jams at 1403, which is also the name of the album. They describe 1403 as “(that’s) the flat no. where all of the music making happened. This was our jam room , ideation zone. All these tunes are extensions of ideas recorded here. This room had great energy.”

Nathan and Dhir have been experimenting with their sound and taking it live in different musical settings with room for innovation and improvisation. Drum आणि Bass focuses on creative exploration of their instruments and using technology to emulate a new form of music which draws influence from the electronic music of today.

1403 is an ode to Mumbai and its chaos. Listening the first time, you’re left feeling energetic but not satisfied. At a modest 40 minutes, the album makes for a compelling listen, worth being looped multiple times. With every listen you travel deeper into the soul of the city that it is inspired by.

While the connection between the music and the city runs deep into the album’s core, what also shines through is the incredibly skilled work by Nathan, Dhir and the 8 other artists they’ve collaborated with on the album. It is commendable, to say the least, that despite so many collaborations they’re able to mould an album around the nebulous idea of Mumbai Chaos, rather than it sounding like a compilation.

Talking about the collaborations on the album they say “The last many years, individually for us, have been playing with many different artists. Our musical upbringing involved a lot of improvised jams / shows. This gave us the opportunity to create music with a bunch of different artists in different settings. For this album we had nothing chalked out as such. All the collaborators on the record are our closest friends and their contribution to the sound gives life to our album. We had different processes for producing each tune. For eg: On mind of no mind we recorded many vocal layers and sampled from that. A more electronic music production approach as opposed to having set parts and specifically recording them. “

The album is also available on all major streaming platforms. 

The album begins “108.9” which unfolds as a conversation of jazzy guitar playing by guitarist Ron Cha and flawless breaks by Dhir. Throughout you can hear layered samples that add to organised chaos of this track. The second track, “What Thing” with DJ Kaale is one of the top tracks on the album, not just for the perfectly synchronised bass with intense drums, but also for the credit roll that immediately teleports you to what DJ Kaale describes as a “Sarvojanik Mahotsav”.

The energy that is being built up until this point lifts off with “Don’t Know How” which is a typical but not-so-typical DnB track owing to its sampled vocals in regional languages. “Dudhpuff” is particularly special for the post-humous appearance of the piano virtuoso Karan Joseph. A mellow track, relative what we’ve heard so far, it serves as a segue into the melodic tracks of the album.

“King of Good Times” with Azamaan Hoyvoy is bound to make you ask why the elements of the track are so disparate, but it all comes together as the track progress – the odd samples, the repetitive melody, the punchy bass and the dhol like drums! “Mind or No Mind” with Yung.Raj and Vasundhra Vee is a beautiful track that fills your heart with joy at the direction in which melodic DnB is heading in India. It is so essentially Indian yet a nod to the kick-snare-kick-snare pattern we all know and love. The last track “40P/Väisälä”, with generous support by Warren Mendosa and Sid Shirodkar, is a soulful melodic end that sums up the album’s raison d’être.

When prodded on the essential Indian-ness of the album (and how it makes one think of DnB being ingrained in Indian music) as well advice for DnB producers here, here’s what Nathan and Dhir had to say “We are glad to hear that somewhere people relate to the India (particularly the order and chaos in BOmbay) . To be honest ‘dnb’ is not so ingrained in the indian pop culture. In fact there’s not many bands playing this music. Having said that I don’t remember any drum n bass parties that people haven’t enjoyed. There’s something about jungle/dnb that is so driving. There are a bunch of amazing producers who have been cultivating this scene in India for over a decade now and there is definitely an audience for it. Its only growing and we are grateful to be a small part of this dnb uprising in India.
For Nathan and I it was checking out Mark Guiliana and Tim Lefebvre ( Beat Music) or Jojo Mayer and Nerve that motivated us to find this sound that was inspired by the electronic music we were listening to then and exploring acoustic instruments to emulate these sounds. Since we are trying to emulate electronic sounds we’d love to hear their advice! If we were to give any musical advice it would be explore each day , play more ani enjoy your instrument.”

1403 cements Drum आणि Bass’ position as bright artists on the horizon of the wide expanse of DnB that is yet to be discovered in India. We’ll be sure to watch out for them and their future work!