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Symphony Novel - ARIA


album Reviews May 05, 01:23pm

A review of ARIA by Mumbai's experimental/progressive act, Symphony Novel.

It’s an old argument, that of doing something that’s been done enough times before and doing it really well, versus attempting to tread new grounds, irrespective of whether those attempts bear fruit or not. Forgive me, but I’m a complete sucker for the latter, even when it’s experimentation for experimentation’s sake – the risk of contrivance arises, but I would personally prefer contrived music over derived music. And Mumbai’s Symphony Novel, guitarist/composer Rachit Sachedva’s project, succeeds in that respect because it does attempt something different, something just a tad new.

Influences from the east and the west wrestle through the progressive, rhythm driven arrangements with an indelibly melodic vocal delivery, trying to create a tender balance. The six-song release, ARIA, is an exploration of moods; the songs, right from the hypnotic opener ‘Chant’, establish a certain atmosphere through well thought out guitar riffs, with the compositions building up from that initial mood and expanding and explicating and enlightening those realms. Sachdeva’s crisp guitar playing serves as a starting point for the music, although his knack of lapsing into Iron Maiden-ish elaborate, open, almost cheesy patterns and notes, as on ‘The Lake’ and ‘Tranquilize’, takes away a little bit from the maturity that the music generally emits, with some showy bits thrown in for good measure.

One aspect of ARIA that could potentially evoke strong reactions among listeners is the singing. The Average Indian Singer’s tic of singing along to whatever’s happening on the guitar is foregone here for melodies that accompany or complement the guitar, instead of simply following it. The hushed, almost whispered words on ‘Chant’ give way to a more pronounced approach on ‘The Lake’ and the rest of the songs (with ‘Chant’ featuring a different singer). The underlying theme remains consistent; the two vocalists featured have a strong style and an ability to belt out relatively unpredictable notes. Then again, it does get a little too dreamy-pop at times, which might not be to everyone’s liking. And accompanying the elemental melodic disposition of ARIA is a quite fantastic rhythm section comprising heavyweights Sheldon D’Silva on the bass and Gino Banks on the drums. While individual virtuosity naturally comes through in their precise, groovy playing, what really stands out is the sense of dynamics that the guitars, drums, and bass showcase, with flickering rhythms and alternating sections of accenting adding a rhythmic playfulness behind the melodies.

The tight, well-defined narrative flow of ARIA detracts a little from initial attempts at ambitious experimentation, with a clear sound developing through the course of the release. It’s not changing the game per se, but it does discover unfamiliar spaces while still maintaining a strong structural core, stoking the listener’s curiosity at the very least.

Stream ARIA by Symphony Novel below:


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