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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Vh1 & The Humming Tree Present: Blackstratblues & By2Blues

After inching through two and a half hours of traffic (why do I bother even talking about this problem any more in B'lore?), I finally made it to the Humming Tree to catch By2Blues opening the evening for one of my favourite bands from Mumbai, Blackstratblues. This is the third time I'm seeing By2Blues play live. This band is a classic example of how you don't need fancy electronics and (no pun intended) all that jazz to put up a good show. Keeping it simple the band had a healthy mix of covers from Eric Clapton, CCR and other crowd favourites along with some own compositions. The band had Shalini Mohan (from Lagori) accompany them on bass; and set the mood perfectly for Blackstrat Blues to take over the rest of the evening.

Starting off proceedings with The Happy Billy Song, Blackstrat Blues had the crowd screaming out requests from the first note. The audience were privy to some new material including a soft ballad titled Northstar which Warren dedicated to the missus; and a very trippy untitled number whose bass a drum riff were absolutely trippy and addictive. I could probably listen to just those two instruments playing that groove in isolation and not be bored. There was also a tribute to SRV and the band’s take on 12-bar blues (Check out my Instagram feed for a sneak peek)

The band powered through popular hits like Anuva's SkyFolkish Three and The Universe has a Strange Sense of Humour . Having seen Blackstrat Blues perform for the seventh (or eighth ) time, it's very clear to see that the band have become really comfortable with one another, joking around between songs and having a good time playing with one another. Warren Mendonsa himself has become relatively verbose and spent a good amount of time between songs talking to the audience and sharing stories rather than rushing through the name of the song and the occasional thank you. That being said, he should never sing ' Sultans of Swing'. (An inside joke with the band that I didn't quite follow beyond the fact that it had something to do with a gig in Mumbai with Zero )

Talking about how he was inspired by The Beatles' song Here Comes the Sun , Warren moved into the penultimate song of the evening, Ode to a Sunny day followed by a very smooth transition into Renaissance Mission, the last song for the evening. This was yet another stellar gig from the band. Going by all the new material that was played, I’m looking forward to the next album whenever it’s out. 

Gig Pix: My top ten favourite pics from gigs of 2014

Since 'Top Ten Lists' are the in thing right now, I thought I'd put together my top ten favourite pics taken at gigs in 2014. A big thanks to all the bands who put up brilliant gigs and the folks managing the brilliant light and sound that made the gigs so much better.

10. Fidel from

Parvaaz

during the launch of their album -

Baran

, taken at

Counter Culture

9. Nolan Lewis from

Kryptos

during their gig at

Counter Culture

8.

Dinosaur Pile-up

at

Indigo

7.

Motopony

playing at the

Bacardi NH7 Weekender

in Pune

6. Warren Mendonsa of

Blackstratblues

at

Counter Culture

5.

Ministry of Blues

at

Counter Culture

4.

Luke Sital Singh

at the

Bacardi NH7 Weekender

in Pune

3. Tips from

Soulmate

at

Counter Culture

2.

Monica Dogra

's solo gig at

Bacardi NH7 Weekender

in Pune

1.

Skrat

at

Bacardi NH7 Weekender

in Bengaluru