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‘Gratitude is an Ocean’: I7HVN’s Debut Album ‘Youthful’

Creating art is an act of generosity, not only to others but also to one’s own self. And generosity comes from a place of deep gratitude. The kind of gratitude that comes from interacting with the long arc of your art. In the age of attention spans that last a few seconds and art is often confused with a product, few works of art can nourish the souls of the receivers.

I7HVN’s debut album ‘Youthful’ does this in spades. A multimedia artist from Bangalore, India, he is known for his distinct soundscapes that transcend conventional genres. His previous works featured on labels such as Postdynamic, Observant, and Steyoyoke have veered towards a techno, breakbeat sound. His last collaboration with Qilla Records culminated in ‘Shrinking Violet’, a downtempo techno track on their experimental compilation Atmosphere Vol. 3.

With ’Youthful’, he conjures up ethereal realms of sound, accompanied by distinct visual elements inspired by diverse cultures’ mythology and history. Fusing elements from electronica to breakbeat, trip-hop to IDM, he traverses a wide spectrum of genres to encapsulate the gamut of human sentiment.

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It is rare to find an album that unfolds patiently over 11 tracks. The album shows a different perspective on its story with every successive track. The overall mood of the album is introspective and subversive contrasted by orchestral synth leads and glitchy interludes. The opening tracks ’Seeds of Life’ and ‘A Birth Defect’ set the mood for what’s to come with their seamless transition from ambient moodiness to glitchy nostalgia. Help Me Dream’ and ‘Skin’ steer the narrative towards the shadowy, introspective domain of breakbeats and deep techno, echoing similarities with work that Ishan has released in the past.

With the next two tracks, ‘Imaginary Love’ and ‘Natural Conversion’, there is a change in the soundscape and pace that swells with a theatricality conveyed by emotional synth tones and disjointed beats. With ‘Fields of Autumn’ there is a closure on the first part of the album and movement towards culmination. The eponymous track ‘Youthful’ stands as a focal point, radiating a refined and mature sense of resolution and growth with its acid beats and synth pads. This leads into the meditative ‘Lost in Binaries’, a piece that embraces an accumulation of chaos, exuding a feeling of reaching a climax. The penultimate track ‘Digital Beings’ returns to the original pace but maintains the energy that has been built so far as if to say ‘the story continues’. The concluding track, a rendition of ‘Imaginary Love’, features the mesmerizing vocals of Sanoli Chowdhury, a Kolkata-born and Bangalore-based singer-songwriter with a distinct flair for soul-stirring, tear-jerking productions.

We spoke with Ishan to understand the process behind his debut album.

  1. Congratulations on the beautiful album. What inspired you to produce the album? What were the inspirations behind the sound and treatment of the tracks?

The inspiration for my album stemmed from my need to express myself and explore my musical identity. As an evolving artist, I found myself drawn to various genres at different times, reflecting the range of emotions we experience as humans. Recognising the interconnectedness of genres, I embarked on a year-long journey to create this album, which serves as an aural journal of my life and current state. Writing down my feelings has never been my strong suit, so I channelled my emotions into the music, allowing it to become the medium through which I conveyed my experiences. This concept album delves into the contrast of life, encompassing the challenges and achievements we encounter from birth to the present. To capture this essence, I combined orchestral and real instruments with glitchy, broken beats and digital elements, aiming to portray the emotional imbalance that resonates within me and likely within people worldwide. The album embraces the dichotomy of intense happiness and profound sadness, as well as the chaos and anxiety that often accompany these

  1. Can you take us through the process of putting it together? How did you approach the different tracks? What was your setup like? How did the idea evolve over the course of producing it?

For my setup, I primarily relied on my computer, working entirely within digital software. To create a sense of connection to the world, I incorporated numerous field recordings that subtly played in the background of the tracks. The process itself was quite lengthy. In March 2022, I shared some tracks with Qilla, and one of them made it onto the atmosphere compilation. Initially, I had planned to release an EP, but Madhav suggested that my style of music would be better suited for a longer format, as it was more conducive to attentive listening. Although I had always wanted to create an album, I didn’t want it to consist solely of ten dancefloor-oriented tracks, as that wasn’t representative of my musical vision. So, I had a starting point with a few tracks from the demo pack, and then I set out to compose the remaining ones. By November, I had completed ten tracks and believed the album was finished. However, I wanted to push myself further and try something new by collaborating with a vocalist.

Having seen Sanoli perform at Echoes of Earth in 2022, I reached out to her in January, and by the end of February, we had recorded and arranged the track together. I am thankful to Vipul for not only serving as the mastering engineer but also for pushing me to give my utmost effort in ensuring the quality of the tracks. There were moments when I thought everything sounded right, but Vipul would point out areas where improvements could be made. This motivated me to dive back into the work, and it was truly remarkable to witness his transparency and constructive feedback regarding my tracks. Then, the idea of creating a music video for the vocal track emerged. Over the past six months, Vishal and I spent countless hours on video calls, brainstorming ideas for different types of videos and developing promotional strategies for the album. It was an enjoyable process, and Vishal provided valuable guidance in terms of strategically and creatively positioning the album. I often feel that Vishal has put in more effort than me when it comes to the album. The dedication and hard work he has invested are truly remarkable. While the album is ultimately mine, I cannot deny the significant contributions and support from everyone involved. I am grateful to have such loving and encouraging people around me, and their involvement has made this project even more meaningful and special.

  1. How did you evolve as a person and an artist while producing the album?

About a year and a half ago, I faced some confusion when it came to shaping my sound. It felt somewhat distant in a certain way, and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with where I stood artistically. However, I believe that evolution is a constant process, and even in the next five years, I may find myself expressing similar sentiments. Nonetheless, I am currently content with my artistic development and the output I can share with the world.
As for my personal growth, I’m unsure if I can say the same level of satisfaction. Nevertheless, I take solace in the fact that I’m able to provide a meaningful creative contribution to the world. The progress I’ve made artistically brings me happiness, and I will continue to embrace the ongoing journey of self-discovery and improvement, both as an individual and as an artist.

  1. How do you balance the different parts of your life – music making, Safar Collective, DJing, teaching, visual art etc.?

I have a tendency to take on numerous responsibilities and often find myself overwhelmed by stress. However, I realize that I thrive best in spaces where I feel comfortable, such as music and arts. Being a self-taught producer, I understand the value of mentorship and support. Therefore, I strive to give back to the community by assisting others in the creative field. In Bangalore, I had the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, albeit at a later stage. I believe that everyone should have access to guidance and assistance, and I am committed to providing that support whenever possible.
In my creative endeavours, music-making and DJing go hand-in-hand. While working on Safar, we took on the challenge independently. However, I am grateful that our community comprises individuals with diverse skill sets. This means I don’t have to handle everything alone, and we have people who specialize in various areas. Additionally, I find joy in exploring different forms of expression beyond music, such as visual art. Constantly learning and acquiring new skills is something I love, and I believe this creative journey will continue indefinitely. Currently, I am immersing myself in Touch Designer to explore audio-reactive expressions. I’m uncertain when this learning process will conclude, but it marks a promising beginning.

  1. What do you think about the growing art and music scene in Bangalore and India? What would be your advice to aspiring producers in the country?

Bangalore to me is one of the best cities for playing, performing, and learning creative skills. It offers numerous avenues and platforms to showcase one’s talent, even for the most unconventional artistic genres. The city’s culture encourages exploration and experimentation, which is evident not just in Bangalore, but throughout India. While the pace of progress may vary in different places, I am fortunate to reside in a city that fosters a vibrant creative ecosystem. I believe that more people are recognizing art as a legitimate profession, and in the coming generations, we may witness a shift towards pursuing arts right after completing school. This is an encouraging trend, as it will contribute to the growth of the artistic economy and create a balanced supply and demand dynamic.
To fellow producers and creative individuals, my advice is to keep creating and immerse yourselves in art, rather than conforming to predefined norms or trends. Your own energy and craftsmanship have immeasurable potential, which can only be discovered and realized through exploration. Doing something which has already been done won’t make you happy. Additionally, it is crucial not to get disheartened by your own craft, they might look & sound okayish at times but Art is subjective, and everyone perceives it differently. Don’t let the standards set by industry elites or capitalistic pressures dampen your spirit. Stay true to your heart, and sooner or later, people will come to appreciate and understand your unique story and perspective.

Being a thinker and artist across media, along with the audio album, I7HVN has also released a video with Sanoli’s rendition of Imaginary Love. He also manifests his imagination in the visual sphere, designing the album’s cover art himself: a digital representation of tangible objects like clay sculptures and glass. This artwork, brimming with symbolism, echoes the themes of personal evolution and human dichotomy woven into ‘Youthful’. The turquoise and tangerine-hued sculptures embody logic and emotion, respectively, while their rough, unrefined appearance serves as a poignant reminder of life’s inherent imperfections.

With such deep and wide breadth in his debut, we can’t wait to witness how his journey unfolds with his next few works of art.

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