Glasgow-based Kapil is a singer songwriter. He writes and performs everything himself.
Kapil’s songs are described in one of his press releases as “avant-garde” and “progressive alternative rock”. I heard abrupt changes in inventive soundscapes underpinned by a well-defined but developing style and musical direction.
I realised a long time ago that I’ve been wrong about having a liking for “challenging” music. In fact, what I actually like, amongst other things, is music that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I don’t think that is a text book definition of “challenging”. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been drawn to artists like Trent Reznor or King Crimson, and one of my favourite tracks of all time is In Dark Trees from Another Green World by Brian Eno. So it is probably more accurate to say I am a fan of “different” and “adventurous”. I like unconventional lyrical material, or strange sounds as main characters as the tunes play out over, perhaps, an odd time signature or nine.
[Editor: that was a bit long-winded]
[Me: I’m on to you – I don’t think you are the Editor at all!]
Whilst the raw aggression of a Nine Inch Nails song may just be bubbling under and never quite surface, Kapil Seshasayee has, nevertheless, harnessed some of the elusive properties that I look for in music. He doesn’t rely on the conventional array of instrumentation we’d expect from a rock band. Understated guitar pins down the riffs and his clear voice provides some of the melody but there’s also the use of some unconventional instrumentation in his music, like the Water Phone – also known as the Ocean Harp. This unorthodox instrument is described on Wikipedia as “a type of inharmonic acoustic percussion instrument”, [I think they mean “enharmonic”]. An almost bird cage-like device, it is at once a percussion instrument and a sound generator that can be plucked or played with a bow. Tilting it produces sounds awash with enchanting polyphonic ambient tones and surreal portamento.
This combination of orthodox/unorthodox instrumentation could take centre stage but appears to be the vehicle for the song. The percussive driver is made up from a combination of unusual sounds, samples and drum-kit-like sequenced drum machine patterns and there is little attempt to disguise this. No precious pretence. The rhythms are integral but are borne out of the music, still identifiable as part of the rock idiom, but not dictated to by the rigid configuration of a conventional drum kit. Neither are there self-indulgent posturing guitar solos. There’s plenty of technique there, but subtly underplayed.
Kapil’s songs fail to conform to the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle-eight-chorus-ad-lib-to-fade format (is that how it goes?). There are slight changes in pace throughout and the songs are, in places, Spartan if intricately arranged. I would classify the entire little collection as Industrial, but then I’m not a reliable labeller. Host has strong riffs and heavy guitar. The uses of staccato riffing interspersed with ambient noise, probably articulated with that quirky Water Phone, make this an interesting listen. The title track starts with a great little piano sample that recurs periodically like a little cameo. The busy percussion reminds me once again that this music is unconventional and the track seems to develop into an almost orchestral drone of distorted guitar. These songs are too short to be Prog but defiantly strange enough to be Progressive Rock. The EP concludes with my favourite Whatever Was Arranged which has rich chord changes, subtle percussion, heavy riffing and is peppered with ambience.
I can’t help wondering what Kapil could be capable of as the leader of an ensemble with a bass player – or dare I say a Chapman Stick player – and conventional drummer. Maybe this music, delivered by a more band-like combo, could be quite epic. As it is, the EP and the single don’t quite take off in any kind of visceral, gut-wrenching rock explosion. But this criticism might be directed at so many other artists whose genre might carry the label “art rock”, and I wonder whether Kapil’s choices in instrumentation might make an ensemble difficult to assemble. I certainly wouldn’t like to lose any of these features from his work, not least the sonic palette that he uses to great affect! The inevitable compromise that comes from working with other musicians may detract from the uniqueness that sets him apart but it might also allow his music to more rapidly blossom and give it some teeth.
I can’t see how he will fail to attract the attention of would-be collaborators. Until then, this is aspirational and artistic stuff. Check out the beautifully crafted video for his forthcoming single, Brazen (released on 27<supth October 2015 via Fu Inle Records), HERE. In fact, this was my introduction to Kapil’s music. Brazen is a definite extrapolation on the elements that we can hear in the EP. I can imagine a progression in the song writing between this EP and the forthcoming single that sets me in a state of eager anticipation for next year’s album release.
Kapil will be heading out on a UK tour before the end of 2015 in support of the aforementioned single – itself taken from his debut album of songs, A Sacred Bore, to be released in 2016.
I want a Water Phone.
01. Host (3:52)
02. Crimes (3:51)
03. Lumbering (2:32)
04. Whatever Was Arranged (3:01)
Total Time – 13:16
Kapil Seshasayee – Vocals, Guitars, Keys, Drum Machine Programming & Additional Percussion
Country of Origin: UK
Released: 7th Aug 2015