Marking the first album release from his alter ego, Seasonal Affected Beats, artist Tarun Balani makes his 4th appearance of the year with it to close out 2023 with his album of “improvised electronic and acoustic sounds” as he calls it. Titled “Where the Ice Meets the Water”, he’s aimed to deliver a message about climate change through all the sonics on this project.
The first track “Southern Oscillation” starts off with an arpeggiated piano line with an eerie and ominous feel to it, very reminiscent of the style of Hans Zimmer. This sound is manipulated throughout the two minute mark, with layers and effects dropping in and out, giving it more and more weight and slowly building up the tension after which it slowly fades away into the background and is replaced by a minor harmony of the same, with a distorted synth. This continues until the end after which all the sounds slowly drop out, reverberating and panning through both ears. This track has a solemnly urgent feel to it, making the listener feel as if it’s waking them up from their slumber, shaking them violently to have them see the imminent doom they have in store for themselves. The title itself is named after a chief climate change factor, responsible for temperature changes in tropic and subtropic regions. The 5th self-titled track ‘Where the Ice Meets the Water” is similar to this one, with some hard hitting 808s and bass hits in there.
The second track is a stripped down, piano theme version of the first one. While this one doesn’t have the same urgency as the first one, it has a more ponderous theme to it, as if compelling the listener to think about the truth of the situation set in motion by the first version.
The title of the next track, “Chance and Electricity” is perhaps inspired from the epigraph of the highly acclaimed whodunit novel “Chats With the Dead” by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka, which says “There are only two gods worth worshipping: chance and electricity”.
The track starts off with a guitar sting dipped in a heavy flanger effect, after which some subtle percussion comes in with pulsating notes from an electric piano. The guitar layers each change in the track, with chords changing each bar. This again, has a Hans Zimmer feel to it, with the piano being the main driver on the melodic front. As the curtains are called on Chance and electricity, two more synths are added, enhancing the main melody, at times overpowering it to drive the emotion home.
The rhythm and piano of “Frozen North(Outro)” is very reminiscent of the song “Fireflies” by Owl City in it’s sound and rhythm, only this one’s far darker and existential. It features an ascending and descending key roll in three different octaves, cycling amongst them throughout.
Most of the titles of the tracks on this album seem to be double entendres, with one aspect describing the actual aspect of climate change while the other alludes to its origin, a work which implies to a message about how we as a human race need to talk about irreversible damage we’re causing to the Earth.
“Locusts are Descending(Piano theme)” is a piano rendition of the original one recorded with DHARMA, on which Tarun Balani played the drums. While the super smooth and feather light drums by Tarun added a swing to the original composition along with the dulcet tones of the trumpets, guitars and synths, this one lets the listener hear for themselves what really holds the song together, its super imaginative and expressive melody.
The 7th track “Risalo Reprise” provides similar vibes as the 4th one, “Frozen North(Outro)” with the main melody holding its own most of the time, without any major intrusion by any other elements of the song, until the end, when all instruments come together to form an electronic rendition of an operatic close of sorts.
The penultimate track (which is actually the closing track of the album, since the next one is a live rendition of the first one, “Southern Oscillation”) seems like the one that would play when the world is ending, it has a bittersweet feel to it, with the initial notes giving a sense of upliftment, but then resolving to a sombre sound, with huge reverberating synths holding the pillars. The title of the track itself is very interesting, “Tactile Nostalgia”, this can be interpreted in a lot of different ways, is the nostalgia in question tactile? Is the feeling of tactility what nostalgia is about? Or is the whole concept a play on the fact that nostalgia is in fact, something that isn’t tactile? It’s hard to tell.
What is in fact, crystal clear is that even though he’s used a very restricted kitty of instruments and sounds for this new acoustic and electronic instrumental album, Seasonal Affected Beats has managed to say so much, without having said a single word in this 32.5 minute project.
With him embarking on his India-wide tour to promote its release, playing these tunes in places like Goa, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai, there’s no telling what his alter ego might achieve.