Laser-focussed on originality, the quest to stay true to oneself and forging a unique sound for himself, Pune-based jazz musician Shreyas Iyengar is out with a disarming, potent and skilful new EP OST .
With track titles, such as ‘Plastic Joys’ and ‘Weird Flex’, it seems almost surreal for words like ‘flex’ and ‘plastic’ to appear on a jazz album. But then again, as Shreyas moves to point out on this EP—nothing is really as it seems.
The multi-instrumentalist leads the project on the drums, piano, keys, synth and alto saxophone. He is accompanied by equally worthy talent like Pratika Gopinath (vocals and lyrics), Jayant S (upright bass and lyrics), Varun Venkit (conga, djembe, dunun, and percussion on the tracks ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Weird Flex’) and Vinay Kaushal (electric guitar on ‘Weird Flex’).
Announcing the EP, Iyengar confessed his hope for OST to be a continuation of, as well as an evolution from, Tough Times – his much applauded debut album. And, OST proves to be just that.
OST kicks off with the first and only pre-released single, ‘Pinocchio’. Every beat matched with timely perfection, every note deliberate, this track sets the stage for the rest of the EP masterfully. In fact, the opening bars of the track are enough to suck you right in. And, that seems to be the point with this one—to invite you. The arrangement sounds like something straight out of an Agatha Christie film; like Hercule Poirot has rounded us all up, about to reveal who the killer is.
With its pushes and pulls, ‘Pinocchio’, invites every listener to come play this game of “hold a mirror to yourself”, its ominous tones simultaneously warning you that you may not like what you find.
The next two tracks on OST, ‘Glitter Gang’ and ‘Plastic Joys’ work together as a pair. The arrangements on these two are cheeky, sonic quips brought to life by Gopinath’s rich and vivid voice. “I still put on the smile, put on the charm / put on the fake, put on the front,” she sings on ‘Glitter Gang’, while on ‘Plastic Joys’, she croons, “You become whoever they want,” breaking down the layers and masks that we don as real.
While much of Iyengar’s sound is uncontainable—jazz being the most relatable label there is for now—these two tracks remain well within the realm of the traditional jazz sound.
Bringing the EP to a close is ‘Weird Flex’, the sound of which closes the loop on OST, rounding things off into a full circle. The percussion, the rhythm and the arrangement, all of it brings the listener back to the opening track ‘Pinocchio’.
On every track, it’s almost as if Iyengar’s voice can be heard, asking tough questions, the most important being, “Are we ready to be honest?”
Potency is a valid marker of this EP, for every element speaks to its intention. Talking about the cover art, Shreyas wrote, “My heartfelt gratitude to Omisha Gandhi for bringing to life the visual portion [of my upcoming EP]. The image and music represent humanity taking a cold hard look in the mirror and recognising how broken the society we’ve built for ourselves is.”
It’s clear that Shreyas Iyengar set out on his solo career with a clear objective—to make music that he is proud of and believes in. Tough Times represented the start of that impressive artistic intent and now, OST does the same with equal grit. This EP isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t. It’s simply a sign of the times, like some of the best art is.
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