After their successful debut with “Dance Jane Dance” and the eventual release of their first-ever EP LUSH in 2017, Delhi-based rock-outfit Kraken has come a long way as a band, and as individuals trying to leave their impression on the contemporary indie music space of the country. With the band’s latest release Club Namaste, they have indeed outdone themselves – blending influences from several walks of music to create a captivating record that is sonically rich and technically sophisticated – an amalgam of popular dance music and metal elements. In their own words, “you’ll always find an innate dance element to all our music delivered with metal music at heart. It’s who we are.”
The EP sees LUSH’s metalcore and math-rock-inspired guitar-heavy soundscapes morph into rich, polished textures scattered with effervescent guitar riffs, groovy bass and drums, flashy vocals, and jaunty synth elements. These coalesce to create the record’s electrifying sonic scapes.
“We went through a line-up change and also wanted to figure out what was the collective sound we wanted to map out for our future releases. Obviously, to push the LUSH sound on the new members would make the sound extremely contrived. We didn’t want that – we wanted to write an experience,” comments the band.
The EP blends the eccentricity and liveliness of hip-hop, trap, and contemporary pop music with the grit and robustness of progressive metal and rock-oriented styles to craft a sonic palette that is dynamic and diverse, something that can be enjoyed by listeners regardless of their musical preferences. If LUSH established who Kraken is in essence, Club Namaste goes the extra mile to reaffirm their status as a band who have owned their musical differences and created something spectacular out of it.
“We will always retain the essence of what Kraken is at heart, but the presentation and plating will always be a snapshot of what we are consuming and want to say in the moment at the time the songs are conceived,” they explain. “We don’t listen to one type of music all the time, so why forcefully make it?” they add.
The EP’s reprise, the “Club Namaste” theme in the title track, flows through most of the songs, and their extensions are carved out as separate songs but occur as beat switches. “This was intentional and something new for us – an homage to the music we grew up listening where you’d have the album theme surprising us by popping up in different songs, tying the listening experience together,” they say.
As has been established previously, Club Namaste comes as a result of diverse influences conjugating together, with artists like Robert Glasper Project, Drake, Timbaland, Whitesnake, Children of Bodom, Britney Spears, Rihanna and Animals as Leaders heavily influencing it. “All of us listen to such different and diverse artists within the band that a singular artist as an answer to this would be blasphemous,” comments the band.
The record flaunts its upbeat textures with “Body Text”, “Coffee and Compromise”, “Khan Market Gang” (previously released as a single), “You or Someone Like You” and “Members Only” incorporating groovy rhythms and embellishing them with slick rap and clean vocals, snazzy guitar work, bouncy bass lines, and rich, scintillating post-production elements to create smooth yet electrifying soundscapes with an undeniably entrancing mojo. Contrasting the lush sonic textures are mellow, lo-fi productions exhibited in tracks like “Club Namaste”, and “Empty Beds Lose No Sleep”.
One element that probably stands out among the rest inarguably is its use of technically sophisticated yet catchy, boppy guitar lines that balances melody and skills effortlessly. As much as you are left impressed by the display of clean, dexterous guitar-playing, the passages simply satisfy your auditory nerves.
“Good guitar-playing is synonymous with belting out a guitar solo usually, but I did away with guitar solos completely on this album. I gravitate towards riffs more, and wanted to marry guitar into the music in a way that it becomes the second voice,” comments Moses Koul, who is in charge of the guitar duties for the band. The guitarist also mentions that some of his best riffs haven’t even featured in the EP because according to him, “they weren’t adding to the song and what we were trying to say with it.” Moses adds: “The idea from the start was to serve the song.”
The record narrates a coming-of-age tale centered around the young generation against the backdrop of a 21st-century urban Delhi (the band’s lieu d’origine). “We are writing about living, absorbing, and creating in Delhi, a magical land – seeing through the lens it offers us, the opportunities and the chaos that is so familiar, the architecture and history. The trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being the youth where the big leagues seem so close, yet are terribly far. We constantly live on the line of making it, yet it is just always a pence out of reach. We talk about that,” explains the band.
With Moses laying down the foundations of the record, drummer Suyash and vocalist Vipul joined in to play around with the base idea, eventually coming up with something that sounded solid and satisfactory. According to the guitarist, the bass parts were added quite later onto the EP, after most of it was finished being written. Although Club Namaste sees most of its synth and keyboard parts being written by Moses, the keyboardist of the band, Reuben Das overlooked the session making sure that the parts sat well.
“The process starts with a fleshed-out song demo that I write and produce and take to the band, during Club Namaste specifically, I would take it to Suyash joined by Vipul sometimes. Usually, I have an idea of the feel I want for the song, but mostly we take apart the song and try every groove idea that we can possibly think of, and that’s where the magic happens,” comments Moses.
“We would start finding pockets and turnarounds that would lend themselves to the vocals or switching up the guitar part and arrangements in a way that sounds solid. After we have the structure ready, we have Vipul join and vibe out with it,” he further adds.
“After we have the final instrumentation, I complete the production and arrangement and overall sonic treatment for the songs. Sometimes I’d get ideas during the production phase that we then incorporate into the songs, and so on and so forth. It’s all very fluid,” adds Moses. “With every release, you get closer to the sound you’ve envisioned for the songs when you first start writing them. And with Club Namaste, especially, working with Krishna Rao and Donal Whelan for the mix and master, respectively was the right combination for what we wanted,” he says.
Having completely crowdfunded the creation of the EP, Club Namaste did not fail to impress Kraken’s fans, both older and newer ones alike. Sure, it has been quite a leap in sound from their last record, but the audience seems to have acknowledged the mixtape with open arms allowing the band to claim their place in their go-to playlists.
“Our fans are generally very open-minded, supportive, and welcoming people – we made this album after a successful crowdfund. They are extremely genuine, so I feel if they weren’t happy, they would relay that to us in a nice way. However, till now the response has been super,” claims the band.
The success of the EP speaks a lot when it comes to the public’s acceptance of newer sounds that have been coming up in the independent music space of the country. The current generation of music enthusiasts is rooting for music not prevalent previously in the Indian indie arena and bands like Kraken have taken the responsibility of becoming the flag-bearers of this new era.
Club Namaste’s release has proven to be a watershed moment in the band’s career, re-launching their image as musicians setting higher standards. After several small shows promoting the EP and being booked for NH7 Weekender this year, Kraken has been on a roll so far. They seem to be pretty stoked with what came out of their rigorous efforts.