Math rock is at an all-time high. The rising popularity of the genre, with its frenetic guitar noodles and unpredictable polyrhythms, has resulted in a rapid proliferation of aspiring bands across the United States and United Kingdom. But the new sounds of math rock are happening in a place where you’d least expect it…
From progressive fusion pastiche to oddball acoustic-folk, Bengaluru (Bangalore) is championing new innovations in math rock. Located in the southern region of India and accommodating a population of 12.3 million, Bangalore is perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a math rock scene. This is, of course, not to discount India’s wonderful history of odd-timed classical music; but it seems fair to suppose that a niche genre like math rock, with its roots in the US hardcore punk movement and Steve Albini’s recording studios, probably wouldn’t hit these regions of the world quickly, right? Yet is here more than anywhere in India that underground music thrives, with eminent international bands like Meshuaggah, Biffy Clyro, Slayer, Tesseract, Jethro Tull and Behemoth each visiting the city to perform. It is therefore unsurprising that Bangalore has all the infrastructure, logistics and culture to accommodate these international bands, and for local musicians to be inspired and develop, and for niche genres like math rock to blossom.
In this article, we are going to introduce you to five key Bangalore bands that we think are bending the foundations of math rock music. Who knows, this may be the start of a math rock revolution…
Oddball math rock quartet BREAKDOWNPANDA burst onto the scene in 2018 with their breakthrough EP Moronic Outbursts. I’m not going to try and paraphrase the zany motivations behind this record (which can be found on their Bandcamp ‘bio’) but suffice it to say that it is nothing short of something out of Gravity’s Rainbow. The band’s oddball premise is set against an extremely captivating backdrop of grungy math rock with intermingling jazz and the eccentric neo-psychedelic aesthetics of bands like Tera Melos and Lingua Nada.
Moronic Outburst may only be an EP, but I’m still picking apart the many elements of this multi-faceted record, and still haven’t come to grips with understanding it. It is a showcase of imagination and musical storytelling from a band thinking far outside the math rock box.
Stuck In November
Perhaps the staple in Indian math rock right now is the quartet Stuck In November. The technical flair of the band’s 2015 debut First Slice Of Cake quickly thrust them up with virtuoso math rock juggernauts like Floral and Invalids. In 2017, the band made an interesting transformation, putting away their pedals and turned to acoustic guitars and bass, twigs and shells, music boxes, and learned to play wind instruments, amongst other things. The result, First Visit to Camp Telepathy, kicking off with a wonky acoustic reprise of their runaway hit ‘Polyrhythmic Synth Jazz Simulation‘ and slowly unfurling a showcase of folk-heavy, oft-vaudevillian math rock. It was math rock like no one had ever heard; wind instruments and music boxes played in odd time signatures over the backdrop of rattling twigs stopping and starting unpredictably.
Stuck In November are actively deconstructing both the folk, gypsy and math rock canons, creating a unique and wholly listenable and oddly cerebral hybrid. Trust us, you haven’t heard math rock like this.
This is the tightest progressive fusion we have heard in a long time. Take one listen to Pineapple Express’s landmark EP Uplift, and the octet’s blazing precision becomes readily apparent. An exceptional highlight is the opener ‘Cloud 8.9‘, which sees the band blending fast and frenzied progressive metal with traditional Carnatic music. The imagination encased in Pineapple Express’s songwriting, not to mention the exceptional sonic quality of the EP, makes this a must-listen for math rockers.
Another band we have our eyes on at the moment are quartet Haiku-like Imagination. ‘Peach of the Seven Skies’ was one of the band’s first offerings, a variety of upbeat math rock minglings with elements of emo and post-rock. The track covers a lot of territory in its almost seven minute duration, and together forms an oddly-timed yet well-balanced rock ballad akin to bands like Pinnacles and Boyfrndz. More recently, the band have incorporated two singers, upped the technicality, and piled on a heavier post-hardcore component. A band bringing this much variety to their sound is a band we are keeping our eyes and ears on.
Deadstar is the solo project of Nihal Anand, guitarist of Stuck In November. Here, Nihal’s luscious soundscapes drift far beyond the exemplary guitar skills he paraded in First Slice Of Cake. Baby Teeth came out in 2017, and is a prelude to the folk aesthetic that would be instilled in Stuck In November’s later sound. With its quirky keys and effects, Baby Teeth brings about the carnival-esque elements of Britain’s unsung prog-punk heroes Cardiacs, The Monsoon Bassoon and Ring.
Deadstar sees Nihal Anand go far beyond the confines of Stuck In November. His technical guitar work is embellished with the fruits of yester-decades prog-punk, creating a sound that is truly unique and far beyond math rock’s Holy Writs.
If you’re looking for more odd-timed delights from India, why not have a listen to Zenguin from New Delhi, Jeepers Creepers from Calcutta, and Orchid also from Bangalore. And be sure to check our World Of Math map for other continental math rock favourites.