• Sat, Sep 26, 2020

Donn Bhat - Connected


album Reviews Oct 15, 12:15pm

A review of the Mumbai producer and his band, Passenger Revelator's third album
 Photo Courtesy: Sonali Zohra

On his third album in a career that spans more than a decade now, Mumbai’s top producer, guitarist and vocalist Donn Bhat seems to have hit a comfortable balance between the guitar tones and electronic structuring, further imbibing electro pop rock completely, and finding a unique voice within its realm. I might feel slightly averse to assign the music a spot in that umbrella genre, considering it constantly expands to varied influences.

Connected, the follow-up to his second album Passenger Revelator, is (in parts) a kaleidoscopic mixture of old pop rock ballads, doused with influences of deep house, with a sprinkling of Ali Farka-Toure-esque primal grooves, like those you will find on ‘Spinning World’ and ‘The Beer Was Over’. Bhat’s influences prove to be absorbed and not just regurgitated. Ashhar Farooqui aka Toymob’s electronic strokes on the album shade the core just enough to save it from seeming clouded, keeping the influences intact. Farooqui’s evolution is evident as he, much like Bhat, follows the ‘less is more’ ethic with the record. And then there’s Suhail Yusuf Khan on ‘The Storm’, his versatile genius infusing exceptional limbic highs with the sarangi, further creating a deeper crevice for the listener to explore. As much as I might like to stay away from electronic music, it creates a soft ambient bubble for Bhat’s melodic tendencies, keeping it in constant pendulum swing between tolerable and likeable.

‘2000 Years’ sounds extremely reminiscent of a groove you might hear from Mumbai electro pop artist Your Chin, with its lulled vocal melody and catatonic rhythm. But then the song hits a droning crescendo that evokes Michael Jackson’s ‘Stranger In Moscow’. ‘Desh Bhakti’, on the other hand, sees Toymob take control and turn it into a more lyrically aggressive track, in the midst of a mostly passive and apolitical album. The song also sees Bhat using samples of Tibetan bowls and passages from Miles Davis’s work, creating a soft envelope for Farooqui’s more jagged edges. The two songs turned out to be the easy picks as favorites.

There is a lack of any strict linear progression in the overall mood, which means the tracks remain largely, excuse the wordplay, disconnected. It serves better as a compilation of works to display evolution in songwriting that spanned over months or years. But, the absence of an underlying narrative strikes off any chance of romance with poetry or the more abstract concepts behind the music’s origins, for the listener.

Connected is one of the easier listens, which allows one to switch back and forth between the songs and pick favourites. Where Bhat’s previous works might have reflected a musician overworking his music as if to compensate, Connected would be the method in the madness. The more toned down and secure approach to songwriting in this album sets Bhat more apart than aside. It might not be pathbreaking to the art itself, but the album is self aware and allowed itself to be experimented on within the bounds the artist had created for it. A decision that seemed sensible, reflected maturity, and turned out to hit the mark. 

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