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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The Aayushi Karnik Trio at Blue Frog, B'lore

The Aayushi Karnik Trio was in town this weekend and I finally managed to catch the gig after missing the last few owing to work-related travel. Playing at the Blue Frog, (not one of my favourite venues in town), the band started just a little before 9 pm. Kicking off with a Beatles cover of Across the Universe , the band powered through a relatively mellow yet tight set. Aayushi Karnik is one of those musicians whose sheer talent and ease of playing her music more than makes up for her comparatively shy and quiet demeanor on stage. And that results in a no-nonsense, no-banter straight up clean blues gig. If you can't figure out what I'm saying, check her playing Voodoo Child. Legsang Sherpa on bass was meticulous, and I rather enjoyed his work on an impromptu jazz piece the band played. I wasn't particularly thrilled with his vocal contribution though.  Sudhakar Prabhu on drums was in charge of keeping things tight and define the boundaries with which Aayushi is allowed to do her thing. I was hoping for a drums solo bit.

All the seats in the house were full and everyone enthusiastically cheered the band on. It was refreshing to see a simple stripped down blues gig after quite some time. That being said, I think the band needs to look at a slightly bigger sound, maybe the introduce a horns or harmonica section that augments the current sound.

PS - We had Luke Kenny in the house who was probably the most vocal in cheering the band on and screaming out for an encore.