On Monday, Richard Spaven (pictured) and Sanaya Ardeshir entered Island City studios in Khar, Mumbai, with a single plan: write music from scratch, work with each other’s sounds, and produce something that will not only be sonically cohesive but also showcase their individual abilities as seasoned artistes. Except they had only four days to accomplish their goal. One must have to be a bit mad to embark on such a project, but when there’s two, it could turn out to be an exhilarating adventure. “I’ve been familiar with his work for years and connected a while ago. I remixed one of the pieces from his last record, Real Time (2018), and sent it to him; it’s set the tone of our collaboration,” says Ardeshir.
This evening, Ardeshir aka Sandunes, one of India’s leading electronic music composers, and Spaven, the globally-acclaimed genre-defying British drummer, who has toured with José James, Flying Lotus, and The Cinematic Orchestra, will take the stage at the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. Presented by Red Bull Music, the hour-long performance will see the two artistes reinterpreting each other’s work to arrive at a new soundscape that is a combination of structure and improvisation. The show travels to Delhi tomorrow where it will take place at Shed 9, in Dhan Mill Compound, Chhatarpur.
What’s been the takeaway, we ask Spaven. “Indian,” he says, without batting an eyelid. There’s a second-long pause before laughter fills the studio. It’s been a long day’s night, and Spaven can’t be blamed for thinking about food. This is his first trip to India, and in between making music, he’s eaten all he could, driven an autorickshaw, played gully cricket — all of this, in less than a week. “The biggest takeaway is the impact India has had on me; this collaboration is having on me. It’s been quite intense,” he says. “For me, what I’ve learned by just being around a musician of his calibre is outrageous. There’s observed learning, philosophical approaches to music, and I feel that I’m in good hands, and that I can relinquish control. This is rare,” says Ardeshir.
Spaven and Sandunes have much more in common than one would imagine: both are gifted storytellers of sound; Spaven, especially, is a master of controlling tension and release, and Sandunes excels in weaving in little flushes of emotion in her set. “A lot of people want something with a lot of energy and volume in electronic music. But you can have an intensity burst that is contained. When I record something and I’m moved by it, I work on it a little more. When I’m really moved after that, I want to present it to the listeners. It’s a very intimate experience. But a lot of people tell me that they’ve got my CD in their car, and I groan. I want them to put on their headphones and listen to it in the dark,” says Spaven.
Both he and Ardeshir are firm about one thing: there will be no fillers in the set. “What’s the vibe? That’s the question we’ve been working to answer. We don’t want to put out anything that sounds like a compromise. We’ve been working on segues but we’re also wondering if we should inform the audience of the intensive process this show has resulted from. This isn’t a disclaimer, but something to get them on board with us, because they’re the first people to hear something so raw,” says Spaven.