In Conversation With: Curtain Blue
5 July 2016
Out of the many names in alternative Indian electronic music, Abhishek Bhatia’s stands out as one of the more prolific, consistent and original of the lot. Apart from his work with alternative rock project, The Circus, Bhatia’s solo electronic project Curtain Blue has seen a fair amount of attention in the last couple of years it’s been running, but 2013 was a real turning point.
It was at the first edition of Magnetic Fields Festival in Rajasthan where he met Robot Koch – Project Mooncircle and Monkeytown Records signee, solo producer and member of Jahcuzzi, who was headlining the festival. Koch immediately took a liking to Bhatia’s music, describing it as being “somewhere between Apparat and Jon Hopkins, a bit sound track-y, melancholic but really detailed production.” A fitting description – Bhatia’s vocal heavy productions tend to lean towards a darker, more contemplative, uneasy side of electronica, evident in his debut EP ‘Drones’. That aesthetic has remained largely unchanged, until now.
Curtain Blue’s new single ‘Let Go’ from a video series he’s titled ‘Unbroken’ sees him collaborate with sister Abhinaina for something much catchier, more pop-influenced and dance oriented, without losing the recognizable CB manipulations and glitches (particularly in that chorus), or sacrificing any meticulousness in the production. And there’s much more to come as the rest of ‘Unbroken’ unveils itself over the course of this year. We got in touch with Bhatia to tell us a little bit more about where he’s at musically, and what we can expect from the new video series.
“I’ve been working on new music for quite some time now and I've already made some new tracks, which I'll be putting out soon”, he tells us. “I've taken my time for this and I’ve been able to relate to my issues now more than anything else. Its becoming easier for me to write more personal stuff about me not being able to sleep alone, or my sister not feeling safe in this city, a friend's cry for help or my gay friend finding it hard to live with his family.”
“I like giving rhythm to my thoughts, so I thought of calling my series Unbroken. I can’t really explain why."
His new single ‘Let Go’ sees him collaborate with his sister Abhinaina for the first time: “This song is quite special to me because of that. I heard my sister sing the lyrics of the song once and decided I wanted to work with her on it, as I loved the lines.”
Collaborating with his sister has always been at the back of Bhatia’s mind: “She is a tremendous singer and a composer too. She wrote the lines for this song. This was essentially her verse. When I heard her sing these lines on a ukulele, I felt like producing a track around it. She's really talented and I'm looking forward to a few more collaborations with her later this year.”
Bhatia iterates that ‘Let Go’ is meant to be read more as an abstract thought and personal statement or plea, rather than a socially didactic PSA. The intent, however, is clear cut – to open a discourse about feminism and the issues that plague Indian women everyday: “Our mutual objective while making the song was for it to be pro-feminist. I've often discussed these societal misogynistic issues with my sister. She's experienced weird things herself. This time we both felt the subject while making the track and I let it take its path. The track quite abstract, but it reminds my sister of the insecure moments being a girl and it reminds me of my personal insecurity of my role as a brother and a friend - to her and many others.
“We see men/women worshiping females as "goddesses" and then we see the same people going around beating women up for what they’re wearing, for having jobs, boyfriends - a life!”
The Bhatia siblings released ‘Let Go’ as a largely monochromatic video, created with Riddhiman Ghosh and Neiza Silveira at Concept Counter. The theme surrounding it is portrayed through a woman (Abhinaina Bhatia) trying to deal with emotion and exasperation at Indian society’s backwardness when it comes to women, depicted through real life quotes by the people they know.
“The video shows her fixing her distorted self to get back to her role in society as a prop. We also asked a few friends and people to share their quotes and experiences on the matter, some of which can be seen in the video as anonymous quotes.
“I don't intend to change perspective here. It's more to do with my thoughts on the matter as I've faced these issues vicariously through my sister, girlfriend, mother and friends."
Curtain Blue’s experimentation with sound and style have been a while coming: “I've taken my time with this sound. It’s definitely different from what I was doing a year ago. I've been open to working with different people, exploring different genres and playing live with varied artists. This comfort of adapting a mixed pallet has helped me be more welcoming to newer ideas. I can’t describe my sound as I'm still exploring. My next release could sound absolutely different from this one.”
2016 is going to be all about new affiliations with fellow artists for Curtain Blue. “I’m very open to collaboration this season. This track is a partnership with my little sister. She had her own sensibilities to it. I'm also working with various artists for my future releases and album this year.”
Curtain Blue is currently on a tour to launch ‘Let Go’ across India this month. He’s already performed in Delhi and Mumbai once, but will perform once more in the capital as well as in Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad between 21 July and 22 August. Gig details below.
New Delhi, 21 July: antiSOCIAL
Pune 31 July: High Spirits
Bangalore 26 August: The Humming Tree
Hyderabad 27 August: The Farm