You ardent readers may not agree, but it can be tough on one’s aural organs to blast metal for hours upon hours each and every day. That’s because in our tiny cubicles we don’t often get to crank the albums we love; we have to play the ones we’re reviewing. And after blasting my assignments from Cult of Luna and Monolord a combined twenty-seven times this month, my weeping ears needed a break. Something peaceful, serene, and calming. And since I wasn’t (un)lucky enough to be tabbed for In Cauda Venenum, I settled on what I hoped would be a sweet little morsel of post-rock: Rooh, the third album from Indian post-rock outfit aswekeepsearching. I’ve been led to believe Rooh will be an “inspiringly gorgeous escape,” which is exactly what these aged eardrums need.
I mentioned post-rock twice in the previous paragraph, and I meant it; there is nary a hint of metal anywhere on Rooh. This is a glistening, pristine record, utilizing Tangerine Dream and God is an Astronaut for the building blocks, ethereal and cinematic in mood. aswekeepsearching also incorporate traditional Indian instruments at times, and Uddipan Sarmah sings entirely in Hindi. Don’t let that throw you off, though: despite not understanding the lyrics, the emotion Sarmah evokes is clear and earnest. The man has a wonderful voice for this musical style. Even without understanding the subject matter, the mood of the songs are palpable. And Shubham Gurung’s work on the keyboards takes a lot of these songs to another level.
aswekeepsearching are at their best when they are reaching for the sky, both in feel and arrangement. The first track that really hits a home run is “Aas Paas,” with a beautiful build and an emotional climax that ticks all the post-rock boxes. And after the brief synth-pad instrumental “Eneke Najaaba,” the title track is another masterpiece, with a very familiar guitar melody1 and tremolo-laden synth waves build and build in a grin-inducing manner. Instrumental “A Night in Zottegem” is the most gorgeous song on Rooh, a four-minute crescendo of mood and strings. And the final track, “Gangtey,” features a hypnotic female vocal repeating a single line over and over for its paltry two minutes. It’s a wonderful denouement to a delicate-sounding record.
Rooh doesn’t fall very far short of its objectives, but several of the songs do lack imagination when it comes to arrangements. “Chasing Light” and “Green and Blue” are exquisite-sounding pieces, but they don’t tell a story. The same goes for “Aitbaar” and “Eneke Najaaba.” They’re a bit like cheesecake. They taste great, but ultimately don’t really add to your day. The music is awash with dynamics, bright and airy, with Sarmah’s vocals soaring above the mix wonderfully, and when the arrangements keep up with the audio quality like on “Aas Paas” or the title track, the songs are works of art. If aswekeepsearching can harness that ability for a full album, they will undoubtedly blow us away.
As a diversion from the heavier fare we usually tackle here, aswekeepsearching have delivered a strong post-rock album. At times it sounds as good as the upcoming Leprous release,2 and even the more mundane songs are so immaculately produced that there’s no need to fast forward. Rooh shows they have what it takes to succeed in the genre, and they’re not very far off from releasing something that we won’t be able to stop playing. Of all the bands I’ve listened to this year, aswekeepsearching might be the one whose next album I’m most looking forward to.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Websites: aswekeepsearching.bandcamp.com | aswekeepsearching.in | facebook.com/aswekeepsearching
Releases Worldwide: September 27th, 2019