You can listen to all songs at the end of the review. But please do buy the album, either from bandcamp or any other means convenient to you.
Midival Punditz’ nearly three year old song Baanwarey (the band debuted this song at NH7 Weekender Bangalore, in 2012) gets presented in a longer, zingier form in Light. The team is the same as were present at the debut – Kutle Khan on vocals and khartal, Pt. Ajay Prasanna on flute – two people the Punditz have collaborated with often. The song gets a very folky start – the resounding damaru dominating the sound even as the chorus (Gaurav Raina and Prasanna) sing the title hook. Things get more interesting when the composers introduce that drop though, about a minute into the song! The act is repeated a couple more times in the track, punctuating the pleasant melange highlighted by Khan’s alaaps and Prasanna’s folk phrases. Malini Awasthi is outstanding in her nuanced rendition of the traditional piece (could not find a pure classical version online – seems like mohanam/bhupali for most part, with the occasional diversions that sounded like maand) Laagee, and her brilliance is matched equally by Ajay Prasanna – to hear the two complement each other in the ambient setting is quite surreal! Malini’s second song Nadia too she has Ajay Prasanna for company with some beautiful solos. And joining the lady in her requests to the river to flow slowly, is Papon with his appeal to the boatman to take him across the river (interestingly Papon was part of another song on a similar theme a couple of years back, on Nitin Sawhney’s Coke Studio episode; a must listen song if you haven’t). Karan Sharma’s electric guitar lends well to the electronic elements giving the song a heavier sound, also augmented by the ethnic percussion. Definitely a pick of the album, this one!
Karan Sharma (lead guitarist of fusion band Mrigya) gets his solo act in Run, the album’s longest track. And with Shardul Mehta (drummer of metal band Joint Family which was in the news recently for their work in Detective Byomkesh Bakshy) make good of the opportunity, presenting multiple winning moments in the song. But at over 8:30 in length, the song is a tad too long for my taste. The Punditz feature ex Motherjane man Baiju Dharmajan in another racy instrumental piece Rushing, and the man lives up to his repute with a wonderful solo that is a seamless combination of Carnatic and Western styles. Going by the lack of additional credits in Light and Maya, I am assuming that those involve just Gaurav and Tapan. The title track is a trippy instrumental piece full of major chords based happiness. For some reason it took me back to Talvin Singh’s Dubla. For me the high point of the song is when the mridangam appears, half way into the song. Maya doesn’t go down as smoothly though; the vocoded female vocal bits start getting irksome after a while. That brief segment in between devoid of vocal samples sounds fabulous nevertheless; the guitar providing a solid base and a sedate flute solo building on it. Wish the entire song was around that. Echoes is another song that didn’t work much for me. Something unsettling about the way the tune progresses (shades of sindhubhairavi raga perhaps, especially in Ajay Prasanna’s flute); even the folk bits sung by Kutle Khan seem at odds with the rest of the song. The album ends on an upbeat note with Don’t Let Go, co-composed and co-written by Midival Punditz and Todd Michelsen, one half of the duo My Pet Dragon (a band we had featured long back on our site). The song is a dedication to Shital Dhaul as per credits, and the lines seem to be about her (Never gonna be another one like you and the like). The vocals are lent by Todd and Gaurav, and they do that part well. The song starts off sounding quite regular though, gradually building up in intensity for about two minutes till the point the drums kick in to join the bass. And from then on it is just awesome – D&B format almost always works, especially when there are classical elements involved. In this case the classical angle is introduced by the santoor phrases (programmed I suppose, no credits) and Ajay Prasanna; that first flute solo is a delight!
Over six years in the making after their third studio album (which incidentally released around the time we started; we had even featured a review of it), Midival Punditz have taken their sweet time with Light, but it is as classy a follow-up as it could get. A wonderful set of songs that should be as effective watched live (I am assuming a lot of visual effects in keeping with the theme), as listened to on your headphones.
Top Recos: Nadia, Laagee, Don’t Let Go, Baanwarey
The album officially releases in India on 19th May but can be bought on bandcamp already.
Complete artist credits: