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Review : Skyharbor – Blinding White Noise :Illusion and Chaos

Skyharbor is probably like the new textbook which is introduced in the ‘music fraternity’ – so pertaining to the analogy, it also will be at the receiving end of both accolades and rants. Nonetheless , the album which is hyped from such a long time needs to have a lot to sustain (marketwise) and amaze (music wise) , considering the amazing releases we had in the first quarter of 2012.

Since the inception of Keshav Dhar’s (writer,producer ,head honcho of Skyharbor) solo project Hydrodjent , a lot of metalheads in the indian scene were exposed to Djent/experimental/heavily odd-timed music. This happening more on general terms, international acts who were far ahead in their game were quickly absorbed by the indian fans and thus relative comparison resulted in discussions/rants regarding Hydrodjent’s music as well as future.But in the four years which Keshav took as a musician and producer to craft his dream into a fully blossomed project as well as a total band (original was with programmed drums etc), his unperturbed determination becomes now evident after you hear the entire album.

Coming to the album,it is just impossible to do two things as a listener – find Keshav’s influences and categorize the album into a genre/sub-genre . Prog-metal can be the closest it can get.The album is primarily divided into two aspects – ‘Illusion’ and ‘Chaos’ which are like Yin-Yang in the album, but musically. The thunderously layered guitar work in the songs coming under the ‘Chaos’ shelter is like the exact opposite of the soothing distant melo-chugging of the songs spanning the ‘Illusion’ shelter.Since the dawn of musicians making ‘Concept’ albums, bands like Eluveitie(New wave of folk metal) , Vildjharta(Djent/experimental) or even Skyharbor , the musical wow-ness has exponentially   rocketed . But not all nail it the way Skyharbor has done it, the songs flow like seasons of india, turbulent and soothing alternatively. The musical genius shows when Keshav does this ‘weather-change’ effectively in each of the ‘illusion’ and ‘chaos’ tracks.The title track ‘Dots’ has the most peppy intro riffs iv heard in recent times. Sounding unique is one aspect but creating a distinct sound right from the first note is no cakewalk.My personal pick off the entire album is ‘Aphasia’ – the track is a maddening adventure with soothing  clean layers perfectly moulded.  Sunneith Revankar(Sunny) of ‘Bhayank Maut’ (India) features as the growling vocals on the album – by far the best growls from the Indian Subcontinent ,he shook my ground with his clean sections on ‘Aphasia’ . The intensity which is created because of the vocal layering is just too overwhelming. As for the tracks featuring Dan Tompkins (ex- Tesseract,Absent Hearts) , the less said (more heard) the better.First off he has completely chucked ‘Autotune’ on all the tracks which add a raw edge to his highs and bring out a very unique listening experience. Most of the fans are loving this approach and tracks which have ridiculous vocal variations like ‘Catharsis’ and ‘Celestial’ sound mind numbingly smooth yet impossible to replicate. Out of the ‘illusion’ shelter – ‘Catharsis’ and ‘Maeva’ stand out as unique pieces both for their progression and chug-work.

Speaking about the guest-guitars, Marty Friedman (Ex-megadeth) and Vishal J Singh (Amogh Symphony,India) deliver the required punch to their respective tracks.Friedman’s solos quite honestly feel dated but Keshav’s production makes them sound amazing and has placed them at places which truly bring out the best in tracks. Vishal is a well-known virtuoso in india and his contribution plays an importantly role if you view the album from a producers perspective. Anup Sastry , the prodigy of a drummer did a fantastic job as the bands first ‘real’ drummer (since the original drums were programmed) and set the stage on fire at the NH7 Weekender gig Skyharbor played for the first time as a complete band. Moreover the machine-gun double bass patterns or the silent high hat plays, Anup nails every task Keshav set in the programmed drums with ease and finesse.

Speaking of production value – no 0ne in the indian production scene ,and i mean no one, makes guitars sound ‘warm and delicious’ at the same time. Keshav’s prowess as a producer outshines his musical genuius to be honest. The ambient tones of ‘Celestial’ and ‘Aurora’ are work of art.Skyharbor’s album is undoubtedly the most production-wise outstanding album . The only indian band which matches this is Providence and that too because their album is mixed/mastered by Keshav himself.The album art is equally intriguing . With an instragram churned picture of a calm ,serene ocean – the cover art with the name is enough to give you a calming feeling when you see the CD or hear the album, although the calm before the ‘CHAOS’ is also my own interpretation of the album art.Keshav Dhar = Skyharbor is a wrong equation since the ideas need concrete and fitting pillars which are provided by all the supporting artists. The mastermind undoubtedly is Keshav.

The album is captioned by Basick Records (Record Label of Skyharbor) as ‘India’s brightest hope’ and is quite apt to a certain degree. Keshav’s efforts are appreciated worldwide and he deserves every bit of it but to any label reading this review i strongly urge you’ll to step inside and hear the indian bands which infuse a lot of elements catering to variety of emotions and new musical ‘needs’.If you are an indian listening to this album- right from the oceanic artwork to the guitar work – every moment will make you realize how strangely the album relates to our roots in some way or the other whereas for a global listener , its a treat catering to his (almost) every expectation of how a Skyharbor album should sound like.

Prog-metal fan or not, the ambience and warmth from one end and relentless surge of adrenaline from the other converge perfectly and will make you hear this album now and 20 years later with the same zeal – timeless in every sense.

Rating 9/10

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Interview : Anup Sastry (Drummer – Intervals , Skyharbor)

Anup Sastry – Drum Wiz-kid, Protege , ‘Next-Big-Thing’ – has many aliases but stands out as a ‘Young- Adult’ making waves in the music industry.
Anup started his drum pounding pretty early and secured his own unique playing style which shows clearly in the two bands he plays for – Intervals and Skyharbor( With Keshav Dhar).
He flew down to India to perform with Skyharbor on their NH7 gig in Pune (India).On the tour he grabbed many eyeballs and showed effortless mature playing.
The Debut EP of his band Intervals earned many accolades and Skyharbor signed with Basick Records in the last year – making him a sought after drummer.
In between his hectic schedule i managed to grab few minutes for an interview.

Hey Anup! glad to have you on board, so whilst you are beating the hell outta your kit – tell us how did you and Drums meet ?

Hey! Thanks a lot for having me on board! I was 11 when I first started playing drums! I actually played the clarinet in my middle school band… My best friend at the time played drums. I remember him playing a really simple groove on a kick and snare one day in class. I turned around to look at what he was doing (because it was pretty groovy), and it completely blew my mind, hahaha!!! I immediately asked my band director to switch me from clarinet to drums… and so it began! haha!
A peek into your studio – what gear do you use Anup ?
As far as drumming gear, my kit is a Shine Custom. Its a satin lacquer baldwin black dull rub finish with powder coated off set tube lugs. I use a Pearl Masters Studio Birch snare, which I absolutely love. I use a 19″ Paiste 2002 Wild Crash, 19″ Paiste Signature Series Power Crash, an 18″ Paiste Rude China, 14″ Signature Series Sound Edgde Hats, and my stack usually changes frequently… And I also use Pearl Demon Drive pedals.
As far as recording gear, I use the Anima pre amps by Prodigy Engineering. I actually recently became a proud endorsee of Prodigy Engineering! I use Aurora Lynx converters. My interface is a DigiDesign 003 Rack +. My microphone collection is pretty basic. I have a few SM 57’s, some 98 D/S’, a Beta 52, and AKG 414 silver face, a pair of SM 81’s, and a pair of MXL 604’s. I also have an Axe Fx Ultra!

We have seen the obvious tilt towards Djent -what other genres do you love playing?

I am a huge fan of hip hop (9th Wonder, Gang Starr, Little Brother, etc.). I am also an even bigger fan of post rock (This Will Destroy You, Explosions In The Sky, Mercury Program)! I don’t think that I actually listen to as much metal as you would assume based on my videos…

Skyharbor – how did this wonder happen?

I had heard of Skyharbor a while before I had actually started talking to Keshav. I remember hearing his tunes for the first time and just being blown away. I believe we started talking about the possibility of me playing for Skyharbor if any opportunities were to present itself. Its pretty awesome that it happened. I started doing videos for Skyharbor tunes! My first video was for Aphasia, which to this day is one of the hardest songs I have ever had to learn. This was also why I wanted to knock it out first… hahaha! I guess the videos were my audition videos in a way. It was to show that I can and do want to play the material!


Your other band ‘Intervals’ gathered lot of critical acclaim – how would you describe the ‘sound and feel’ of the band to our readers who are yet to experience its awesomeness?

Well it is a good change of pace for sure. There is some pretty insane guitar work in the Intervals music. Aaron Marshall is a mad man… haha! There are a lot of tight grooves, and the drums and guitar really go hand in hand in my opinion with a lot of the riffs. Its almost as if I’m playing the guitar parts on the drums. The Intervals music is VERY fun to play and it has a lot of energy!!! Our EP if available for free, so I hope people do take advantage of that to experience the material themselves!

A little beyond music – tell us about the Anup we dont know ( don’t worry we will just print it ! :D)

Well, I’d like to think that Im a pretty nice guy and easy to get along with! Im pretty open minded too. I love dogs. I have a Shiloh German Shepard. He is huge (120 pounds) and all black, and extremely intimidating at first glance! haha! But then he turns into a big goof once he gets to know people! I like to go to the gym pretty frequently. I love coffee… I have already consumed two cups while typing up my responses to this interview!!! My parents are both from Bangalore. I was born in Maryland (U.S.) and have lived in Maryland my entire life. I record and produce bands whenever I can.

Young drummers worship you – who does Anup worship as a drummer? your role-models?

I am a huge fan of Tony Royster Jr., Eric Moore, Travis Orbin, Matt Halpern, and Chris Coleman! All of these guys are absolutely insane at what they do!

What was your biggest hurdle while you were in your learning stages as a drummer? any particular pattern,notes etc?

To be honest, I’m still in my learning stages as a drummer. And I hope I will continue to be in my learning stages until I physically can’t play drums anymore. I guess my biggest hurdle was phrasing. Once I kind of understood how to phrase fills and patterns in a musical way, that really allowed me to be able to flow. I would say another hurdle was independence. Its still a huge hurdle for me today. But I do feel like I am improving. Patterns, fills, and grooves weren’t really ever a hurdle because those are things you can learn fairly quickly (relatively) if you put forth the effort and dedicate the time. Larger concepts such as phrasing and independence are things you can always continue to improve on.

You performed recently in Pune at the NH7 Weekender , how was the experience like? Any indian bands which amazed you?

The NH7 was AWESOME! I met so many amazing people and musicians. It was an insane experience. I do feel fortunate for being able to play at the NH7 with Skyharbor. All of the bands that played were amazing. I really enjoyed Goddess Gagged and Scribe!

If you were not a drummer what would you have been?

I’ve always wanted to be able to play guitar and/or piano. So I think I would have eventually done either or… haha!

Any advice/message to the budding drummers/musicians ?

Be diverse in what you listen to and what you practice, regardless of craft. Its important to be open minded (not only with music) because I really do believe that it will help to create and shape your own unique style.Anup Sastry on facebook – http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1101039750
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