Listening to the tinkering keys of album opener ‘Where The Money Flows’, you could easily mistake Peter Cat Recording Co. for a band from the NYC suburbs; one that frequents the local 20s bar to soundtrack luscious evenings of red wine and strong cigarettes in dimly lit corners. But make no mistake, this outfit is fresh out of the New Delhi underground, standing tall as a sonic anomaly among swathes of wiry electronica and Bollywood rhythms.
The five-piece outfit fronted by Suryakant Sawhney, to look at, are strikingly alternative. Perhaps you’d categorise them in the ever-broadening “indie” spectrum, but they sound like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra had a beautiful baby. ‘Floated By’, the second track and pre-released single, is their best on the new album Bismillah. Opening with a battalion of trumpets interspersed by yet more trumpets, Suryakant’s effortless vocals, you guessed it, float right by. It’s the backing to a lethargic Sunday afternoon drinking tea and sunbathing in the garden or the first dance at a wedding in a marquee in the middle of a field. Swimming into ‘Soulless Friends’, the band’s handsome instrumental skills are on full display. The pitter-patter of the melody mixed with hops, skips and jumps from keys, trumpets and surf-rock guitars all come together like a perfectly imperfect abstract painting.
I really appreciate an album that tells a story, and Bismillah certainly does that. Marked by the heartening album cover of Suryakant’s father at his wedding, the record tells the tale of love, in any shape or form, and celebrating its existence in a world that can seem damp and unforgiving. Much like the video for ‘Floated By’ which is created with footage shot at Suryakant’s own wedding, Bismillah scorns those who miss opportunities, celebrates and ponders on the brevity of life and, with surging synths, jumps headfirst into the euphoria of once in a lifetime experiences.
‘Memory Box’ completely encompasses the outfit’s penchant for genre-mixing, pulling on big band brass sounds, the danceability of gypsy jazz and the vintage chic of bossa supernova. Morsels of Bollywood electronics satisfy that desire for the contemporary, and in some cases, completely beguile the listener in the best way possible. We caught a snapshot of PCRC’s talent to bewilder on Portrait Of A Time, but this 2019 record gives that extra nod to their competences individually and as a collective.
The most infectious element of the record is how it flips so smoothly between slouchy American blues and shimmering disco, without feeling startling at all, and at the same time drawing on the vibrancy of traditional Indian culture. It’s a bold cultural clash; a push and pull between the immediacy of the music the band are creating and the conventional backdrop of New Delhi. The two are startlingly at odds with one another, making Bismillah one of the most dynamic musical outputs from the capital in recent history.
Bismillah is released on 7th June through Panache.