Under the Scanner : Spit

The sound of Indian music has never undergone as drastic a transformation as it’s doing now. We grabbed Monica Dogra’s debut solo album – Spit – and put it through our mental washing machine.
 
What do you look for when you listen to music? In full honesty, more often than not – nothing. You surrender yourself to the fancies and fantasies of the artiste; momentarily becoming a part of their world and their understanding of life. Long tags have been left hanging about the function of this art form and its purpose – from therapy and nourishment to reflection and gratification. But beyond utilitarian theories and wannabe philosophies, it’s really just words and tunes tied together as harmonically as possible. With Spit we chanced upon an Indian album that largely fits the bill (with minor distractions here and there).
 
Themed around love, longing and everything in between, the record hinges on poetry and metaphors. It has a refreshing style that breaks away from the current tradition of modern artistes in India – that of fusing folk or classical sounds in their music.
 
Some of the songs carry a vague feel of house music, which may, of course, be attributed to Dogra’s past in Shaa’ir + Func. Most of them have an uplifting rhythm. Dancing to these tunes would be like dancing to poetry in a trance because every song has a strong grip over the words.
 
The album starts with a motley mix of revolutionary banter and poetic rhythm that merges the passion of a western rebel and eastern philosophy, rendered in Dogra’s seductive voice. It culminates in a definitive introduction of what is on offer at the end. The style reflects through every number in the album like a formless voice that beckons inside. “It became the intro of my record because it perfectly summarises this record’s attempt at moving back to the source,” says Dogra.
 
 
There are elements of trance and heavy bass and rhythms, bordering on tribal sounds in Say What You Like, a song about that “typical lover you should have shaken off long ago but whom you somehow keep coming back to.”
 
And I Wonder employs a piano sound that is rarely utilised by Indian artistes right now. The song transports you to an old underground American Jazz club as soon as the cello hits the bass. This would make for a perfect theme song for a Bond flick if the franchise ever plans to go feminist. It has really strong vocals that would set the stage on fire in live performances.
 
Certain pop-psychedelia makes way into Good Thing, which otherwise has a very indie music feel... the kind that you’d like to play on a solitary night on loop, with a whiskey to pair it with. And I Wonder also has a very jazzy style. Beats, filling up every trace of silence, stand out in Into the Night. Rise up and Run hits you on the face with strong vocals and beats that keep you on the edge of your sensibility till it’s over. Shiver is a narrative with large resonances, as if sent out to the cosmos, screeching in loud reverberations and soft overtones alike. You’ve probably heard the track in Sabal Singh Shekhawat’s debut venture, Fireflies that also featured Monica Dogra as an actress.
 
Suspended is probably the most complex song of the album. It could have easily been the electronic rock ballad that anchored the entire album, but ends up being reduced to a confused concoction of rhythm and sounds. What Prash Mistry did with Rise up and Run in a subtle, controlled way to give a fab record, he seems to have overdone in Suspended. So much so, that you fail to appreciate the words, which on the contrary are worth all the attention. Pockets is like three songs merged into one with elements of jazz and electronica and with an uncommon but amazingly generous garnish of an acoustic guitar. This is the bonus track that every music lover buys a record for. The vocals are so fluidly mixed in the music that in the first hearing you almost miss the words for their meaning. Overall, it’s a promising album, packaged as a bold statement made in aesthetic honesty with a mature production quality. However, it’s a bit too tight to allow any breathing space. And that runs through all the numbers, even though there are different producers involved. The interest is, however, maintained through fresh variations.
 
A major stand out of the album is how Dogra moulds her voice in different styles – jazzy, breezy, solid, feminine, and at times even flat. It’s like listening to nine different dimensions of the same personality. It is a loud reflection of deeply felt expressions of someone who needs to be heard, sometimes with aggression, and with metaphorical tones and words in quieter undertones at the rest.
 
The album is available on iTunes