Skrat Launch their 4th Album - Bison

And they’re back… bold, boisterous and with a whole lot of bounce ( sounds like a darn shampoo-conditioner). Skrat, the three-piece rock outfit from Chennai is back with ‘Bison’, their fourth album. Staying true to Skrat’s distinct style music that ensures you’re head banging from the first note, Bison is a slightly darker album from their usual fare. The album follows the story of an anthropomorphic character called General Bison, who awakens from his slumber when the chaos of a world without the ‘Queen’ hits his vineyard. He sets out with his army, along Chaos, Raptor and Yipikaye ( my favourite name).

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The album starts out with a very ominous bass riff on Chaos, and quickly has you head bobbing and screaming ‘May Day, somebody stop me before I go’. The groove carries on into songs like Raptor, Wake Up and Yipikaye.  Skrat gave us a taste of things to come with Fireworks ,which was released a few weeks before the album launched. Very reminiscent of the vibe of the title track from their Queen album, the song has some of the best writing on the album. Vineyard is a departure from the typical Skrat heavy sound to a slower melancholic mood. Red Ox Hide offers a more disco-esque feel. The concluding and title track, of the album starts off with a slower mournful mood that moves into the darker belligerent tone that’s present throughout the album. 

Bison is one of the strongest lyrical albums that Skrat has put out yet. I got onto the Skrat bandwagon with Big Bad Guns, and if one were to listen to all three albums, you’ll notice a significant leap in terms of both the music and the lyrics. Skrat have done a great job with Bison in evolving their music without alienating the older crew (which is one of the songs on the album) and introducing themselves to a whole new audience. Bison plants itself as one of the top albums of the year ( so far ).     

Here are some of the pictures from their launch gig at the Humming Tree, Bangalore. My thanks to the band and the team at THT for allowing me to shoot.

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Blackstratblues bring us their new album - The Last Analog Generation

While one can always get into the technical details of why a certain piece of music is great, the truest critique of any piece of music is the impact it has on someone who has never heard it, or something like it before. And that’s where the fourth album from Blackstratblues – The Last Analog Generation, ranks as one of the finest albums I’ve heard this year, and here’s why.  I bought the album the night it launched and had the music turned up at around 11 pm. My mum, who is a passive listener to all the music I play, left the couch where she was reading, came into my room and sat down through most of the album. And this happened a few minutes into the first. She went on to say, “It’s a bit loud, but it’s very nice. Very energetic.” And that for me is testament enough that this is a great album. The band’s music took a giant leap forward with their previous The Universe has a Strange Sense of Humour album; but with this album, they’ve taken a much bigger leap. Think of it as the difference between Michael Jordan’s slam dunk on a regular court versus his slam dunk in Space Jam.

Album cover art by Arjun Rajkishore from  Arkwerk

Album cover art by Arjun Rajkishore from Arkwerk

The album announces itself with the groovy Lead Chain Swing that locks you in tight for the rest of the ride. I had a lot of trouble moving ahead form this song thanks to the bass and drum groove. The album moves on to the slightly slower North Star which the band previewed during their last tour. Then there’s Sometimes this World (is Not Such a Bad Place) which kicks off an upbeat note and keeps building on from there, cementing it’s place in the classic Blackstratblues sound we’re familiar with. Mediatrician, a song that draws on the classic blues riff is song, as explained by Warren during the launch gig, targeted at mainstream media who tend to be loud and no longer focus on the facts but are more about making a statement.  The baby cries that one hears at the start are that of Warren’s baby girl. ( you can all go awwww now…)

Love Song to the Truth is the only song on the album that features vocals; courtesy Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Tejas. The song offers a very eighties ballad groove with Tejas hitting all the right notes with the vocals. Reconnaissance Mission, while drawing the same riff from Renaissance Mission from the previous album, is a lot deeper with the riff offering a certain sense of anticipation of something bigger over the horizon. For some reason, I had images of the Bell UH-1 helicopters from Rambo:First Blood Part II flying over the mountains of Thailand into Vietnam in the pre-twilight hours with a stoic John Rambo looking out.

Aurora Borealis is a much slower laid back penultimate track before the big bang final track, also the album title, The Last Analog Generation. The song starts off slowly with the guitar and keyboard setting the mood that does actually bring about a sense of nostalgia, and the drums and bass coming in at two minutes that almost immediately reminded me of the groove that Waters and Mason play together on the Echoes song. You’ll know what I’m referring to the moment you hear it. 

While a vast majority listen to Blackstratblues for Warrne's guitar work or Jai's drumming, this album for me was all about Adi Mistry's work on the bass. Right from the first track on Lead Chain to Reconnaissance Mission, it’s the bass that stands out, and as a (wannabe) bass player from back in the day, it's always a joy to listen to a solid groove. What is also a lot more prominent this time around is the work by Beven Fonseca on keys, which comes in as a wonderful garnish that pushes the overall flavour, making this one delicious album. (Excuse the food analogy).

The band is currently on tour, promoting the new album. I was blessed enough to catch them at the Humming Tree in Bangalore over the weekend. Here are some pictures from the launch gig. The album is available on itunes and oklisten.

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