When ‘Chasing the Sun’ begins with its “ta-ka-ta-ki-ta…” thalams and the mimicking guitar, you find yourselves in a situation where you desperately want to keep the beat with your foot but are unable to do so. Welcome to the odd-time signatures of Maktub, the second album by one of the tightest progressive acts in the country today. The Kochi-based Motherjane released their debut album Insane Biography in 2001 to much acclaim. And with Maktub, the band takes proceedings to another planet altogether.
In an interview to Rolling Stone India earlier this year, lead guitarist Baiju MD had spoken about how so far they had been playing the “white man’s music” and how Maktub was a huge step towards achieving an Indian sound. The band fulfils its promise, and how. The opening thalams are not one-off attempts – each vocal inflection and every guitar lead on this album is infused with a distinctive Carnatic sound. And, this while keeping all the energy of rock intact.
The first couple of tracks, ‘Chasing the Sun’ and ‘Fields of Sound’ – with their insistent riffs – had me reaching for the rewind button over and over again. As do the other gems like ‘Broken’ (Baiju won the Best Guitarist award for this one at last year’s Indian Rock Awards) and the beautifully written ‘Maktub’ (“I say to you/It is written/And by your hands it is rewritten/In those sacred moments/When the creator walks through the creation”). This is an album that scores high on all counts – brilliant vocals, great songwriting, fantastic guitars and a very impressive rhythm section.
At the risk of sounding all gushy, I have to say that this is a sound that I have not really come across too often earlier. I would consider us to be extremely fortunate if another Indian band manages to come up with an album that betters Maktub this year.
© Bobin James/Rolling Stone India, 2008