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Delhi based studio project Shoals, comprising of Utkarsh Varma and Sidharth Gupta, list Steven Wilson, Massive Attack, hip-hop DJ Kaytranda and oddly, Ancient Aliens (which is a History Channel series), as their influences. But the duo draws inspiration from a wider palette of alternative sounds and styles like post-rock, electronica, and trip-hop for their debut EP, ‘Mad Turf’. Recorded and produced entirely at home, the EP was released on April 13 through Bandcamp as a pay-what-you-want download.

The EP opens with Weeville’, a slow and sombre intro, which moves into ‘Ppl’, a heavier instrumental on the release. An interlude, ‘Robot-Feline Companionships’, leads into the single from the EP, the groovy and synth heavy ,‘Gnomish’. The interludes between each track seem out of place, and appear more like fillers to pad the run time of the release. For instance, dark and brooding ‘Gnomish’ segues directly into ‘Cuddly Whiskers’, a brief and playful electronica interlude, which then leads into ‘Death Ray’, a song with a sound reminiscent of British trip-hop group Massive Attack. The EP concludes with the spacey, ‘Freegos’, which fades out with the manipulated sounds of a Moog Mother 32 synthesizer.

The overall arrangement of the music is top-notch and the main tracks on the album, ‘Ppl’, ‘Death Ray’, ‘Freegos’ and the standout ‘Gnomish’ are quite impressive. There is a good balance between acoustic and electronic sounds. Some sample quality is raw, like the snare drum and cymbal samples. Perhaps a conscious choice by the duo, but a more polished mix might suit this style better. If the two interludes are removed, the listening experience of the EP is improved considerably.

Shoals have plans to recruit a drummer and perform live. Whether they choose to incorporate live instruments into their setup, or just jam out from behind their laptops, it would be interesting to hear how this music is played in a live setting.

Verdict – Gripping debut, looking forward to more music from them
Song Pick – Gnomish

[Download/stream ‘Mad Turf’ on the band’s Bandcamp page]

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