For Sleepyheads Only

When I had just finished college, I wanted to take a break. Learn some new software, experiment with some of my own works, and to be honest, chill for a bit. Dad gave me an ultimatum, that I couldn't sit jobless and have to contribute to the household bills. Ad agency was the easiest job to get because my art college groomed us for the advertising industry. I got in as a trainee. And I didn't like it. I eventually made friends and acquaintances with some cool people. But initially it was horrid. By the end of the first week I was sitting behind my desk crying. It was stressful right at the get go. I was doing 12-18 hour shifts already.

I had discovered trip-hop and downtempo back in second year of college randomly tinkering around with Real Jukebox. This was before Soundcloud had picked up and MySpace wasn't very popular here. Since then my interest in popular music weaned and I just started looking for more experimental stuff around these genres and discovered some artists that stayed with me for many years.

During the trainee days, I had discovered a Norwegian band, Flunk who were doing some really experimental music delving into a more dreamy and ethereal territory. The most unique quality that drew me in was Anja Oyen Vister's vocals. The English band, Lamb had already enlightened me to the idea by now (thanks to the obvious self-reference in their name), that vocals don't need to sound in one way to appear aesthetic. You just need to listen in. Over here, Anja's vocal style had this lazy, squeaky, purring quality, that wasn't unfamiliar. I make those sounds when I have slept really well and someone wakes me up slowly, softly and affectionately, at dawn. The most amazing thing about the music was, the entire ambience was designed around that lazy/sleepy state (Morning Star is the perfect example). I connected right away and it was addictive.

The office bus would come at 7:45am everyday and it would take me around 2 hours to reach Gurgaon. Luckily, since I used to be one of the earlier pickups I always used to find a window seat and listen to my music on my earphones. So for the first month, every morning, I just listened to Flunk for two hours. I would lean back into my chair and stare at the fresh blue sky outside the window, while clouds and trees quickly scurried by.

Those two hours I would just be transported into a different dimension, where everything is blurry and beautiful. Two hours to escape from the absolute exhaustion of: travel, work, travel, sleep, repeat. It would be the capsule version of the "chill state" I wanted to be in right then. Until then I had never understood what the chill subcategory meant when rummaging through online music. But I guess you figure it out, once you realize life can get far more fucking exhausting than you can ever imagine.

Today, I was in a similar state. I needed a chill saturday. But my brain just wouldn't shut down. I tried everything. Since morning this American band, Pomegranate had been crooning their first two albums on loop, trying to calm me down. Randomly I remembered, Flunk, who I hadn't followed in last few years, and looked them up. And voila! They just dropped an album this year!

It's really quite something rediscovering an artist after many years, and listening to their latest work and observe the journey their music has taken. They still remain faithful to the same lazy/dreamy state but the experimentations have evolved into more mature and deliberate compositions. Although, I feel like I can hear some vague influence from the popular trends in vocals set by The xx in this genre (to be fair, The xx came into the scene much after Flunk did), but overall it is still, very much Flunk. It feels like being woken up by an ex lover after all these many years.

Of course this is mostly based on their latest album, Chemistry and Math. I haven't yet checked their 2013 album, Lost Causes yet. There's a good possibility they tried moving away from the genre in experimentations which I thought I sensed in their 2009 album, This Is What You Get (probably why I didn't follow up since then). So many artists in this genre eventually move on and try/do something different with their music. Pomegranate moved on after their second album. Even Goldfrapp for that instance, their 2000 album, the hauntingly beautiful cinematic noir, Felt Mountain, is entirely different from the kind of music they're known for (yet it remains as one of my personal favourites till date).

Morcheeba also eventually and thankfully realized that they needed to return to their original roots which included Skye Edwards quintessentially, so much so, that their 2010 album Blood Like Lemomade, was almost an homage to their first album from 1996, Who Can You Trust? There's such an intuitive draw to this low-fi genre, that once you engage with it, you'll always keep coming back. But everything said and done, Flunk never managed to or perhaps chose never to, achieve the kind of surreal abstraction they did with their 2007 album, Personal Stereo. Perhaps that is why, the hunt for such visceral experiences in music continues perpetually...

9th December 2017

30 something, trans* graphic designer from Delhi with many a things to be said, though much ado 'bout nothing