“Avial”: a malayalam alternative-rock album.
Heard it? No? Then you need to pay attention. Drop whatever you are doing right now – yea, Right now! And listen! YouTube is a good starting point (check some of the links below). It was for me. A friend fwded me a link with a subject “Mallu rock”. BTW, I do understand Malyalam as much as a penguin understands a parrot (hmmm… !!!). Anyways, I do not understand a word in any of the Avial tracks, except few english background sounds. But the beauty is you don’t need to. At least to enjoy the music!
To me, Avial is a defining moment in Indian rock music history. Never heard a better produced album before. The most noteworthy quality of the album is its sound – an interesting combination of progressive rock with electronica, turntables with high-energy vocals (it makes sense even though you don’t understand a word). And moreover, it declares the arrival of the ‘Indian’ bassist of the millennium, Naresh Kamath.
The album is truly a bass solo. Naresh Kamath, apparently the only non-Mallu in Avial, provides some earthshaking, glass-shattering, rear-ripping foundation to all the tracks. You can also hear NK on the band Kailasa, where he is fronted by the sufi-rock singer Kailash Kher and is also accompanied by two other finest young musicians, Paresh Kamath (brother & accomplice in crime for all things composed at band K) and Kurt Peters, a (literally lean and) mean drummer.
As long as you are not listening to these tracks on your piddly computer speakers, you cannot escape the permanent scar Naresh Kamath will leave on your brain. So please, please, get up from your computer, or connect it to a better sound system that will do justice to all frequency ranges. Or get a headphone!
Bass-ically speaking, its got all kinds – walking, running, flowing, slapping, thumping, ripping! By far the best bass I have ever heard on any Indian album. Period.
Track 1: “Nada Nada”: (Does it mean “Run Run” by any chance?). Whatever it may mean, very well sung. Powerful! Upbeat track. Great rhythm section with the wah-wah guitar. And of course, all the tracks do have the turntable thingy (is there a technical term for this music instrument?), the wahka-wahka sound. Its done very well in this track along with the rhythm section. Perfect opening song to a great album.
(there are few other Nada Nada older version videos on youtube. But this one is the closest to the track on the CD. Interestingy, notice, how the same song has evolved from an older version to the newer version. The production quality makes the song come alive in the newer version).
Track 2: “Chekele”: Awesome beginning of the song. Draws you into the song form the word go: great wah-wah to begin with. Once the vocals begin, listen the entry of the bass there. Something to die for. Great acoustic guitar backing throughout the song. And the chorus is nice, easy for us non-mallus to sing along. The song breaks into a continuous sorta jam at 3:48. Cool tone of the acoustic guitar.
Track 3: “Njan Aara”: Love the reverb-ish, delay-ish acoustic guitar patch in the beginning. Listen to the bass line in this part, floaty, jazzy. And then the song suddenly switches to this dry-distortion on the guitars, And then again switches to the dreamy sounding acoustic guitar. Great dynamics. Just a superb execution. Also the song has shades of jazz in parts. 3:37 onwards, the song breaks into yet another instrumental jam.
Track 4: “Arikuruka”: These guys know how to arrange the opening of a song. This one starts mainly on the rhythm section and sparse guitar and keyboards, and slowly builds up. Before you realize, you land up in an intense vocals section. And during the verse, the rhtyhm pattern is quite interesting. Doesn’t quite follow the normal route. BTW, the only part where I could understand few words, notice at the end: seemingly a teacher asking a-square minus b-square =? – and a girl answering (a + b) into… into….. The part is pretty funny.
Track 5: “Aranda”: Fabulous beginning of the song. The most powerful opening of all the songs on the album.The bass in the latter half of the song is noticeably solid and ties the song pieces together.
Track 6: “Karukara”: This is actually the first Avial songs I ever heard, and it has such a magnetic appeal. Very radio-friendly single, it grabs your attention from the nice Sitarish guitar prelude. And what a transition @ 1:32 from that Indian sound to a power distorted guitar riff. Also, listen to the last minute of jam of guitar, bass and drums. Some awesome jazz-like phrasings of guitar & bass there.
Track 7: “Aadu Pambe”: The pure headbanging content here. The best part of the song is the transition from banjo style guitar picking to a very hard headbanging section of the song. Anand’s singing is nice. After hearing it many times, I totally love the transition @4:12.
Track 8: “Ettam Pattu”: The Enigmaish mix of a tribal chants with a slow rock song! Crisp guitar work there, and powerful vocals too. The only song in the album which has a little piece of guitar solo. Having said that, the other songs incorporate absolutely brilliant guitar work, but none follow the usual verse-chorus-solo-bridge-chorus routine.
In fact, that (last sentence) is in essence the beauty of the entire album, rebellious and unconventional, yet so musical. This is a showcase of arrangement and musical production. I am not sure, but it must have been some state-of-the-art studio where the album has been recorded.
Anandraj Benjamin Paul — Vocals
Tony John — Vocals, Turntables and Synth
Rex Vijayan — Guitars and Synth
Naresh Kamath — Bass
Mithun Puthanveetil — Drums
Avial is a musical milestone, a masterpiece – not for the faint of the Art! Also, I am proud of the fact they have very well retained some of their roots in their music, some folksy music from Kerala, while giving it an amazing makeover. Check out facebook and youtube for some Avial live videos.