There are few independent acts in the country that have cultivated the kind of following that Aswekeepsearching currently has. That they have done so is no small feat. They are a post-rock band that sings primarily in Hindi and their music may not always be very palatable to impatient listeners. On their third album Rooh, the band puts together their most cohesive and lush-textured work yet.
This album is gorgeous. There is no other way to describe it. It has moments to bang your head to if you’re looking for it, and it has seemingly bottomless emotional depth. The textures created by a myriad of instruments and vocalist Uddipan Sarmah’s voice all work towards propping up a feeling, rather than any one musical idea.
The opening song “Chasing Light” is perhaps one of the heaviest, and most typically post-rock songs on it. The song features a longish intro complete with glitched synthesizers, resonating guitars and a gravelly, distorted bass guitar. This is one of the few tracks on the album with a co-producer. Ritwik De, the guitarist of post-rock act Zokova and founder of Delhi-based Ghar Ka Studios, takes up co-production duties on this song as well as on the album’s title track. The collaboration seems to have done well for the band as before recording with De, the song was meant to be an instrumental.
But the album’s brightest star, if you have to pick just one, has to be “Rooh”. Prior to this album’s recording, guitarist Shubham Gurung expressed that he wanted to leave the band. The chorus to the title track, then, takes on a whole new meaning. “Agar tu nahin toh hai bhi kaun” (If not you then who else is even there?)” could be read as a wistful pining for someone you are close to. But the song was written with Gurung in mind and comes from a much more emotionally vulnerable place than it first seems.
Moments of emotional vulnerability such as this are peppered throughout the album. “Eneke Najaaba” is an Assamese anthem written to commemorate life’s fleeting moments, and “Aitbaar” features the band’s most intense performance. “Aitbaar” is not as chock-full of instruments as the rest of the album is. It’s mostly just a guitar accompanying a voice, but it manages to capture a feeling with great effect.
On the whole, Rooh is a sonically rich treat that has been produced, performed and thought out incredibly well. The album’s instrumentation is more experimental than the band has been in the past but that works for them rather than against them. It may be too early to call this an instant classic from India’s independent music scene, but for all intents and purposes, it is exactly that.