Thaikkudam Bridge’s Navarasam gets off to the best possible start with the cracker of a title song. The song has you in its thrall right from the ominous, almost sarppa paattu like violin solo from Govind Menon that opens the song, which later segues into Vipin Lal’s serene rendition of a sopaana sangeetham-flavoured verse (written by Dhanya Suresh, who has penned all the Malayalam songs in the album) that sits snugly amidst the heavy guitars (Mithun Raju) and drums (Anish TN). The interlude only gets better, a killer solo from Mithun followed by my favourite bit – Vishnu Shreekumar’s chenda-kombu-ilathaalam combination, the rock elements and the frenzied chant from the chorus all coming together at an increased pace, creating an almost trance-like effect. The band’s senior-most member P Peethambaran (father of Govind Menon, for the uninitiated) leads the vocals in Chathe, a song which came out a year back as a music video that also featured the singer as protagonist. And the melody plays to the singer’s strength, sticking to a retro-ish folk format, even as in the backdrop the guitars and drums build towards a climactic finish. Khwaab has the band’s classical heavyweights Krishna Bongane and Nila Madhab Mohapatra nailing a nuanced rendition (jog raaga, a lot of it) between the two of them. While the song has a lot of high points marked mostly by the singing (my favourite being the alaap segment that is accompanied by the heavy distortion led sound from the band), the sighing/whispery bit seems the only redundant aspect, coming off a tad too gimmicky. The duo gets one more song in the album, the bonus track called Shiva, basically an extended version of the song the band performed during their first outing at Music Mojo. A large part of the extension comes in the form of an instrumental coda which has Mithun cutting loose with his riffs. The singing otherwise remains pretty much the same, barring a few additional improvs (ahir bhairav, I think the raga is).
In Viduthalai, the band does a brilliant reimagination of Subramania Bharathi’s poem on freedom, overriding the pleasant bilahari raga-based original tune and giving it a graver, more anthemic sound that goes very well with the import of the lines, and Anish Krishnan’s singing also quite effectively conveys that emotion. The band’s ex-member Piyush Kapoor (you might remember him from his brilliant rendition of Beat It on Music Mojo, and more recently as the main man of the band Daira) writes the lyrics for Sultan. In fact the song does sound like the kind that might have suited his style and voice quite well. But no matter, Anish Krishnan does an equally good job here, though the song as such is not as effective as his previous one. Quite liked the staccatoed harmonium refrain that Ruthin Thej creates on the keyboard, nevertheless. Aarachar starts off on an interesting premise of Govind Menon’s impassioned story narration to a metal backdrop. The attempts at abstractness as the song progresses prove to be distracting though, culminating in a seemingly random end. The song that worked least for me is the album’s sole instrumental track called Jai Hanuman. Found it too loud for my taste, possibly because of the lack of vocals to take the attention off that aspect. Urumbu and One are two tracks that provide a light respite from the gravity. Urumbu has Christin Jose Vadasseril in the lead, with his elegant delivery of the folk-tinged and positively hummable tune to a fittingly breezy arrangement. And finally One, the track that came out a month back along with a beautifully shot video. While the rhythm is quite similar to the band’s own theme song for the movie Vegam, this one is much more richly arranged (Govind Menon’s violin solo and the percussions from Anish being the highlights), and has a more Malayali melody making this a much more engaging affair. Top effort on vocals as well, Siddharth Menon leading the pack with excellent support from the chorus, and Govind’s outlandish cameo.
Navarasam. Solid debut from Thaikkudam Bridge that manages to produce songs fitting the diverse vocal range of its singers, all the while staying anchored to the rock base. A debut that proves beyond doubt that the band has come a long way from its cover song days.
Top Recos: Navarasam, Khwaab, Viduthalai, One
Lead Guitars, ukulele by Mithun Raju
Rhythm Guitars by Ashok Nelson
Keyboards by Ruthin Thej
Bass by Vian Fernandez
Drums by Anish TN
Violin, mandolin by Govind Menon
Chenda, ilathaalam, kombu lead by Vishnu Shreekumar
Music produced by Thaikkudam Bridge
Mixed by Rajan K S, Amith, Hemanth
Mastered by Vivek Thomas and Joel Wanasek