Wild City's Essential 2014 Roundup
9 January 2015
2014 had a lot going on. Homegrown artists churned out EPs like nobody’s business, festivals sprouted up at obscure corners of the country, grabbing the attention of noteworthy international acts who gave some unforgettable performances this year. It was an eventful year, so much so, that we felt the need to create a comprehensive round up of all the things that particularly caught our eye and we feel are important to mention as we enter the new year. Without further ado, here it is:
Image credit: Nishant Shukla
While India hasn’t exactly been known as the go-to musical destination for international artists in the past, this year saw a significant evolution in the quality of music (electronic, anyway) entering our region. From the maximalist, ear shattering sounds of Hudson Mohawke to Bonobo’s wistful, dreamy brand of downtempo electronica, we’ve seen sonic horizons widen, if only just a little. We’re taking it as a sign of good things yet to come.
This was the second trip to India for the German producer and DJ, in collaboration with 50Weapons. Known for his experimental, progressive, yet incredibly dancefloor friendly sets, he whipped up audiences in Delhi and Mumbai.
Welsh bass-meister Benjamin O’Shea bought his infectious, bass jammed, techno-leaning dance music to the Motherland in early 2014. This RBMA tour skipped India’s usual music hubs - playing instead for crowds in Kolkata, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad.
The Glaswegian producer was one of the biggest (and certainly loudest) internationals to come down this year. The producer’s maximalist, neo rave sounds (largely from his latest Chimes EP) and unrivalled energy made for some truly unforgettable parties.
Last year’s edition of “India’s happiest music festival” saw a lot of decent indie performances but the highlight for us had to be Mercury Award winner Jon Hopkin’s incredible live set in Bangalore. While we sadly couldn’t attend, sources tell us that his performance was absolutely beautiful - exactly as we suspected.
Massively popular downtempo electronic producer Bonobo made a surprise visit in December, much to the delight of Mumbai denizens. The only downside was that, like Jon Hopkins, this is was also a single city event.
The electronic supergroup, comprised of Diplo, The Jillionaire and Walshy Fire gave Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore parties worth a lifetime this December, courtesy of Oji.
We might be a little biased here, but the highlight of our year (well, this author’s year anyway) was dub don Mala’s bass laden, absolutely epic closing set at Magnetic Fields. Other unforgettable international highlights at the festival were Dream Koala, My Panda Shall Fly, B.Visible and Weval.
The Goa festival took programming up a notch for its second year presenting a lineup studded with forward thinking artists such as Maya Jane Coles, Carl Craig and Goldie - (more here).
The festival rivalry in Goa worked in our favour this December, with Sunburn upping the ante with their bookings. Despite a few unfortunate missteps, they programmed a lot of artists we wish we could have seen live, including dBridge, Sasha and Hot Creations founder Jamie Jones - (more here).
RESIDENCIES AND WORKSHOPS
Despite the awkward place that the creative industry assumes in India right now (art is still far from being a lucrative means of survival a.k.a. your family still think you’re unemployed), certain individuals and organisations are moving forward in leaps and bounds. In the last year, we’ve seen a reassuring number of workshops and residencies dedicated to the arts take place and initiatives like The Coalition have become platforms for supporting the regions burgeoning creative minds.
Sandunes called her experience at the US based workshop “the most expansive and broadening musical journey which changed the way I create, collaborate and respond to music on many levels”. Enough said. Applications are currently open for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Sound Lab 2
After a successful first edition hosted by Robot Koch and T.L. Mazumdar in 2013, the Border Movement initiative came back with a bang in Chennai. Kompakt veteran Justus Köhncke mentored participants alongside Detour Asia’s CEE. The workshop culminated in a live show at the IndiEarth XChange a few days later.
This 10 member strong project took place high up in the clouds, above the Parvaty Valley in Kalga. Probably one of the most experimental art residencies to take place this year (watch here), participants included producer Sanaya Ardeshir, architect Ameet Singh and filmmaker Sachin Pillai.
While attempting to study the year that was, we noticed a lot of bands that emerged from the ashes, delighting fans by reviving old events and putting out new EPs (the favoured format, it seemed, for artists in 2014).
The Kolkata based experimental electronic/art rock band’s long awaited debut album ‘The Dance of The Diaspora’, came 4 tumultuous years after its announcement and was the comeback of the year for us. The act also deserves a special mention for their beautiful performance at Magnetic Fields 2014.
Followers of this old school rock outfit had to wait a whopping 7 years to get their hands on their new EP ‘Inner City Waster’. The release was worth the wait for fans as the band stuck to their roots, delivering the accessible punk rock it’s now associated with.
‘Maby Baker’ was a game changer in the rock world 5 years ago, so when The Supersonics announced the release of their new LP ‘Heads Up’, it was a big deal. The rock n’ roll album was greeted with positive reviews, and the band has been busy performing since then.
2014 really was the year of the music festival in India. Event titans stormed the beaches of Goa, gobbling up every EDM addict in sight. Younger, smaller festivals kept up the solid groundwork they had laid over the last few years, opening their gates to the country’s teeming masses. The hype and excitement surrounding these now massive, unavoidable events have helped foster India’s growing appreciation for music production. Below is a list of some standouts:
A cult favourite and popular with music lovers. The beautiful, untouched location is perhaps a double-edged sword- stunning setting but difficult to access for most travellers.
Only five years old, but already an essential item on every festival goers calendar, a testament to its popularity. A solid mix of music, arts and camping.
The brainchild of Bhavishyavani Future Soundz, the festival took place over three days and at three different venues with a solid lineup. The highlight has to be the explosive boat party on the aptly named ‘Wild Boat’.
The new kid on the Goan block has quickly cemented itself as a mainstream heavyweight in the festival schedule with an international lineup that is almost unbeatable in India.
They did what they reliably do best, drawing massive crowds to enjoy a ‘mela’ like atmosphere across our metropolitans. A favourite performance (at the Pune edition) was certainly Alo Wala at the Red Bull Tour Bus stage and I think everyone was in awe at the response to Nucley1157785's set.
A highlight (excuse the bias), showcasing a magical array of sonic talent and aesthetic beauty.
This year saw the event scale down slightly in size but not in terms of content. An interdisciplinary festival that incorporates a series of showcases, talks, collaborations, workshops and performances.
Enchanted Valley Carnival
Tucked away in the beautiful Aamby Valley, the latest edition to an ever-increasing list of festivals received good reviews for its lineup, production and location. EVC offers more than just music, providing festival goers with an array of adventure and water sports, adding a true carnival spirit amidst all the musical mayhem.
Sound Reasons Festival
A well-received celebration of sound art, contemporary jazz and electronic music. This festival featured installations, performance pieces and engaging talks, making it one of the more unique events in the country.
New Wave Festival
No frills but plenty of thrills. Did a good job showcasing some of the country’s brightest indie talents.
Not a festival but deserves a mention for all the work they did to bring great music to four major metropolitans. They used the internationally acclaimed sound system and global industry standard Funktion One at each show, something never done before in India.
The first, and biggest, festival dedicated to promoting the bass music in all i1159903's glorious forms from dubstep, drum and bass, glitch hop, drumstep and more. India’s premier event for bass-centric music.
The music industry in our country can be somewhat incestuous. It will then, come as no surprise that many artists become close and become friends. The nature of these relationships – artist to artist, peer to peer – tends to be where we find the best work. This year collaborations, between friends and colleagues left the biggest impression on listeners.
One of our favourite collaborative endeavours, a property curated by New Delhi based producer Frame/Frame that featured Sahil Mendiratta, Don Bhatt, Teddy Boy Kill, Curtain Blue and Frame/Frame Live. We want and expect big things in 2015.
We were impressed with her extremely enjoyable and varied live ensemble that included Jivraj Singh, Saba Azad, Bradly Tellis and Sohrab Nicholson. Released the ‘Slybounce & Moon Detector’ EP that featured remixes by five different artists, and beyond that worked on ‘The Memory Lamp’, an audio-visual art installation with Wolves.
Curtain Blue / Robot Koch
The most exciting and extraordinary collaborative effort must be awarded to Curtain Blue who found himself working with the wildly talented Robot Koch on a single that is about to release via MONKEYTOWN RECORDS on the German producer’s latest EP.
BLOT! / Lifafa
Hamburg-based house label Diynamic released a series of four EPs, ‘Four To The Floor’, featuring artists from all over the world, and India’s representative was BLOT! His welcome debut on the label was the entrancing ‘Empire Waste’ track, featuring Lifafa. The trademark dreamy, synthy atmosphere is punctuated by Lifafa’s haunting vocals creating a strong track for an international audience getting its first take of India’s emerging underground sound.
The musician had an eye-catching year, working with the likes of ODESZA, Laplace & Galimatias. Picked up by Mary Anne Hobbs for her BBC Radio 6 show. He also caught the attention of Berlin label Project Mooncircle, who will be releasing his new album this year.
The producer (one half of Teddy Boy Kill) co-founded the Sino-Indian Music Alliance (SIMA) creating a unique cross-cultural platform for musicians in India and China. One of the primary products of this partnership was ‘Module 1: Oscillate’, a compilation featuring Indian and Chinese artists.
Ox7gen impressed this year with a live drum and bass band set up, along with a small and carefully planned light show. The line up was impressive, featuring Bradley Tellis, Don Bhatt, Suraj Manik and Rohan Rajadhakshya. Toured the country with the live band for the release of the EP ‘Dimensions’, which received widespread praise for its energy, production and vocals.
It was a good year for electronic music. There were many comebacks by older bands, new, intelligent producers seemed to come out of the woodwork and the speed with which artists churned out bodies of work was immense. If we were to attempt to list the achievements of every artist worth mentioning over the course of 2014, we’d be writing well into 2015. So, to keep it short and sweet, we’ve listed a few of our favourites below.
India’s newest dream-pop, indie rock band, have been impressing audiences in and around Delhi for months. While two of the trio’s members hail from the hugely popular Peter Cat Recording Co., Begum’s sound is uniquely their own. August, 2014, saw the release of the melodious, lo-fi 10-track LP ‘Bagh’ as well as a series of stellar performances.
Exploded onto the scene this year. Impressed at a variety of festivals and big gigs. Released some great videos with their ‘For What’ series, as well as two solid EPs.
Been around a while, but 2014 was a big year for Hoirong. Impressed in their energetic (a bit of an understatement) live performances. Had a good year in terms of studio output as well with a full-length album, EP and a smattering of singles.
New kid on the block released his debut self-titled album with Wind Horse Records and also signed onto respected Cologne-based label Traum Schallplatten. Amazed audiences with tight and comforting live sets. Collaborated with Frame/Frame for the soothing single ‘Night, Night’.
Though it came late in the year the release of two singles ‘Jacuzzi’ and ‘Blackboard’ recorded in Brooklyn’s legendary studio Converse Rubber Tracks, and under the supervision of big name producers like Aaron Bastinelli, was a big step for the quintet.
India’s hottest techno export has been performing all over the world, involving himself in a series of mixes, remixes, compilations and albums. He released the EPs ‘Your Love’ and ‘It’s Like That/Total Recall’ to glowing reviews and collaborated with Ramiro Lopez on the 2 track EP ‘One Shot’. Honestly his discography is so extensive, we don’t have the space to write about it. We’re interested to see what he gets up to in 2015.
While our comprehensive list covers most major events and releases worth talking about, w1167899're well aware that ther1167924's a lot still to be said. Keep and eye out on our Facebook and Twitter pages for more end-of-the-year lists.