I have stopped buying CDs. They clutter up the house and I end up listening to the ripped mp3s anyway while the actual discs gather dust in the living room. To assuage a bit of the illegal-downloading guilt, I got myself an eMusic account. 11.99$ per month for 30 tracks, and they have a huge selection of electronic music AND almost all new Indian bands put up their music there. This month, I downloaded Shaa’ir and Func’s album Light Tribe, S&F being the most hyped Indian band EVER ( except maybe Raghu Dixit, whose album I didn’t enjoy at all ). These guys are mentioned in some way or the other in every Rolling Stone India issue, and one of their tracks featured in a free CD that came with the magazine two months ago. They even ended up making an appearance in ‘Rock On’. Shaa’ir is Randolph Correia, the lead guitarist for Pentagram and Func is Monica Dogra, and together they make for an amazing package, Func’s vocals and Correia’s grooves meshing perfectly in the electronica-fuelled tracks.
Smoke a.k.a Dhruv/Ashutosh’s Smoke Signals was the second legit download album of the month. I loved the few songs I heard for movies like Bombay Boys and Snip!, as well as random RSJ albums, and recently, there was this animated video on one of the music channels that featured a song called ‘Summertime Rocks’ from this new album, with guest vocals by Kailash Kher. The rest of ‘Smoke Signals’, as I found out, was not bad at all! The overall mood of the album is really Indian, but with a very eclectic soundscape. ‘Yaad Tumhari’, a thumri by Shubha Joshi, is a pure classical number at first, but then a subtle rock guitar riff plays in the background, along with a very very soft percussion track that never overpowers the tabla. But that’s followed by ‘On and On’, a funkily mixed rendition of Mahalaxmi Iyer’s vocals chanting a shloka – the vocals are heavily processed, and the carnatic violin sounds like a mad combination of an electric guitar and a phat synthline as the song progresses. The rest of the songs are similarly unpredictable. Rags Khote singing Bangla in a French accent in ‘You’re So Beautiful’. The African-sounding ‘The Final Frontier’. The very unlullabylike ‘Lullaby’.
Both the albums, incidentally, have been released by Blue Frog records based out of Mumbai. The company grew out of a live club, and now has its own sound labs, a music production house, and A&R services. I believe Dhruv & Ashutosh run it, or are at least major stakeholders in it. The site looks well-designed, and so far, in addition to S&F and Smoke, the label has brought out albums by John McLaughlin, Sanjay Divecha and Vivek Rajagopalan. They do sell CDs online, as well as mp3 tracks and also have a licenseable audio library for use by corporates.
Of course, the No-CDs policy does not apply to Rahman albums, hoo-ah!