Stuck in November – First Slice of Cake

By | Album Reviews

First Slice of Cake album cover

If a topple of toddlers were fed nothing but jujubes and sugary drinks for a weekend and then let loose in a room full guitars, drums and synths (we’ll assume, for the sake of this scenario, that the toddlers are also passably good musicians), you could scarcely imagine a more exuberant record.

The three energetic twenty-somethings behind Bengaluru’s three-piece band Stuck in November are an eager bunch. Upon listening to their newest EP First Slice of Cake, it was evident to me that they have a penchant for the unpredictable, and what emerges sits comfortably in the middle of an untamed brook, drawing from tributaries all around; electronic, folk, math rock, and metal all find at least a small voice in their newest EP, First Slice of Cake.

In 2012, the band released their first EP The Sky Is Watching, but went on a hiatus that ended in 2014. On their second EP, they aren’t asserting themselves to the world so much as reintroducing themselves to each other. Each track on the album sounds like it was written over long, meticulous period of writing, the stories compiled to create a genial, aerodynamic sound. What’s most striking about it is that despite working with extremely math rock-y musical elements, Stuck in November doesn’t succumb to mere technical masturbation.

The first track on the record, Full Power, begins with the gossamer pluckings of Nihal Anand’s guitar and then bursts into life with Nihaal Joseph’s beatific bassline. The track opts for warmth with chimes and pianos rattling through the mix, layering on delays and reverbs that heighten the mood. From this point on, the record sort of shuffles forward speedily and crisscrosses between sounds ranging from tumultuous to syrupy.

Birthday, the second track on the album, starts with circular guitar patterns that amble into a tranquil soundscape and ends in a whimsical carnival fire. It begins organically, patiently, then twists inside out and back again — major keys go minor, organic goes electronic, the strings give way to synths and what sound like distorted field recordings.

All the songs seem to blend together making it almost impossible to review any song on an individual basis. The record concludes with Polyrhythmic Synth Jazz Simulation, a beautiful synth orchestra that feels like an appropriate end to the oscillating, rhythmic journey.

There are certain elements that remain strong throughout the record. For one, the drumming is impeccable. And if you can hear it through the whirlwind of ideas that is Polyrhythmic Synth Jazz Simulation, it is as impressive as ever.

This is the group that will try anything — a giant experiment that treats the best ideas and the most absurd ones with an equal amount of legitimacy. What comes out of this experiment is a cluttered mess of ideas, albeit an intensely creative one, and like their previous release, it’s an obviously laborious effort.

Though their technical mastery is unquestionable, there is so much going on at any given moment, combined with murky production, that it becomes difficult to separate one instrument from another. There’s usually a song buried deep within this wreckage, but it’s difficult to tell where guitars stop and digitally processed tinkering takes over.

However the band continues to pack a righteous punch, and regardless of whether they personally uphold the ideals their music represents, they’ve set us all a salutary example with EP First Slice of Cake.

Check out a band on the cusp of something great:

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