On 2013’s Koocha Monster, Nucleya combined Indian folk instrumentation with thunderous robot-sex dubstep wobbles and wrecking ball percussion that wasn’t heard as much as it was felt. The result was an EP that lent itself as well to languorous head-nodding on the couch as it did to hysterical shit-losing at the club. The music never took itself too seriously, and the whimsical vocal samples that punctuated its crests and troughs as it cannonballed through buildups and drops burrowed into the head. It’s 2016 now, and Koocha Monster’s Street Boy is still as fresh in the mind as ever, unwashed ass and all.
On Bass Rani, Nucleya chooses to refine the formula that made Koocha Monster great. Arguably, the two elements that make Nucleya’s music memorable are the expert melding of traditional Indian sounds with electronics, and oddball vocal samples that rattle and clank inside the head long after the record has stopped spinning. Both of these elements have been honed to perfection on this new album.
Nucleya’s genius lies in ensuring that, rather than subsuming it, his brand of electronics folds into the potent, aromatic blend of Indian street sounds that he uses as raw material. For instance, on Laung Gawacha, the tumbi and the synth effortlessly trade their places in the spotlight, and the dhol on Mumbai Dance often drops out to make way for upfront, bare-bones electronic percussion, only to return with twice the intensity as the track progresses.
The dubstep tropes that yesteryears’ Skrillex copycats ran into the ground, and which formed the meat of most tracks on Koocha Monster, are notably absent from Bass Rani. They’re replaced by chopped-up vocals that, at least initially, are clearly identifiable as human, but morph into exuberant synth wails and broken, frenetic melodies as the tracks build up, like cyborgs fucking at a rave. Case in point, Aaja begins with Avneet Khurmi singing a folksy Punjabi verse that quickly transforms into an irrepressible blast of broken electronic screams, only to spiral back into a second equally folksy verse.
The highlight of the album is Jungle Raja, a Hindi hip-hop track with Gully Gang’s Divine on the mic. Divine is no Rap God when it comes to pure rhyming skill, wordplay, and flow, but he more than makes up for his shortcomings with the sheer intensity of his delivery. Indian hip-hop has never sounded this menacing, this confident, this self-assured. Jungle Raja is not a lyrical marvel, merely some good old fashioned shit-talking. But when Divine snarls agar thoda bhi tu nakli mere bagal mein mat aana, fuccbois scatter. And isn’t murdering fuccbois the very essence of hip-hop?
One place where Bass Rani falters is its song structures. Its slavish conformity to mainstream EDM song structures makes the album an unsatisfying, even frustrating, listen. The cycle of buildups and drops is great at keeping dance floors lit, but gets exhausting outside the club. On most tracks, Nucleya spends a good minute building up to the drop. Considering the tracks on this album are at most three to four minutes long, the majority of the album’s runtime is spent anticipating the drop, the sonic equivalent of edging.
Despite this obvious and often grating shortcoming, the 8 tracks that make up the album manage to surprise and entertain. An EDM album as playful, exhilarating and downright fun as Bass Rani is a rare occurrence.
Bass Rani is available as a free download from Nucleya’s Bandcamp page. Grab it here.