Kalpana
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Kalpana

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The best kept secret in music

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"Delusions of Adequacy"

I’ve rued the lack of a music scene in my chosen hometown of Rochester, NY, so many times that I don’t think I ever expected to be impressed again by a Rochester band. So it still shocks me that both Kalpana and Redder Records call Rochester home. This promising label found a gem with this eclectic but amazingly talented four-piece. The odd thing about Hors de Combat is that by the time I’ve finished it, I have to go back to the beginning again. What starts as a post-rock guitar-driven album ends up as a moving, atmospheric work, and somehow it always startles me a bit that it’s the same band composing these contrasting styles, working them into the same album and sometimes the same songs. And even more surprising is how cohesive the album sounds as a whole. It flows from beginning to end, so it’s never a shock how the styles merge while it’s happening, only afterwards when you try to take in how this band pulled it all off.

The album starts with blazing speed, as guitars rip into “The Voice is Dead” of a light but intricate beat, and the vocals come in ethereally, creating an intriguing contrast from the get-go. The band immediately impresses me with its layers of guitars, creating a powerful, almost hardcore sound in the song’s loudest moments. “We Have Illegal Weapons” rides melodic guitar and atmospheric vocals—including some nice synths and effects—and slowly builds into a tumultuous blast of rock. Then the instrumental “Sic” flows into the almost post-industrial sounds of “Save Me You Can’t Save Me,” and the album moves into a new direction.

The keyboard- and guitar-led track builds slowly but impressively and leads into the thick and layered instrumental “Don’t Move.” My favorite track is “This Will Be Expensive,” a glorious post-rock work, going from pretty and melodic to screaming and driving during the chorus. Things spiral into the textured, 10-plus-minute “Amber,” a gorgeously flowing track that doesn’t feel too hefty for its length, and the album closes with “Frozen Machines,” a lush and layered six-minute track on which the drummer sings quite beautifully. It’s the perfect closer, but by the time it’s over, you want to go back to track one again, just to be sure that, in fact, one band really did pull the whole thing off.

Only impeccable recording and production could make this eclectic rock band sound so good, and the production is perfect. Each instrument shines, and it’s as powerful in the quiet moments as the loud ones. Amazingly enough, the band doesn’t lose a step live, even switching up instruments and vocal duties on various songs. In short, Kalpana surprised me and blew me away.

*“Pick of the Week” for the first week of June, 2004

By: Jeff Marsh - www.adequacy.net


"Used Wigs"

It’s a tasty thing when a band manages to put together a package that has a consistent effect on all of the senses and Kalpana’s new full-length Hors de Combat does just that. OK, it doesn’t taste all that great, but it feels nice and solid and smells good. The music seems like the perfect soundtrack for the visual journey of the poor fellow on the cover who seems to be making his way home in a blinding snowstorm.

The band wisely catches the attention of any innocent bystander with the wild intro to the opener “The Voice Is Dead,” a song that as it develops, shows off some of the extremes of the album—from ethereal atmospheric chanting over echo-laden guitar work to manic fuzz-guitar bursts. For some reason the urgency in this tune reminds me of the more primal moments of Television and the Attractions, largely due to the drumming of Michael (no last name), which is consistently impressive throughout the album.

The adrenaline really starts to surge once we get to “34 Stories of Ana Mendieta.” What I dig about this band and specifically this song is when the crunch kicks in, it’s punchy yet rhythmic—again, boosted by the superb drumming. This is how I like my power chords served up: simultaneously head bangin’ and foot tappin’ (I hesitate to say booty shakin’ because it’s not the Chili Peppers, but still packs a good groove).

While the strongest vocal performance is on the moving “We Have Illegal Weapons,” vocals are generally used sparingly throughout the album. When they do show up it kinda sounds like someone in the shower in the next room harmonizing with someone sitting next to you—an interesting effect.

”Save Me.You Can’t Save Me” is the standout track on the album. This is the part of the journey where “cover art guy” is walking through a thick fog down by the water and we see a flashback montage and get all weepy (the good kind). I could see this tune working on a soundtrack like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It’s airy and atmospheric, starting with a Spartan electronic drum beat and melodic bells that continue to repeat and build until they overflow with the hot lava of distortion and then artfully fall to pieces.

Then you’ve got the dense sprawling soundscape of “Amber,” which sounds just like what you’d expect from four guys weathered by the vast snowy expanses outside their home base of Rochester, NY, and the winding down of the meditative “Frozen Machines.”

This is a collection of tunes that grows dearer with each listen and fits nicely next to another favorite of mine in recent months, “Entertainment Is Over If You Want It” by the Swords Project. It brings distinct sensations of winter with it—and I’m hoping it’ll continue to cool all of my senses this summer as I sweat my arse off in my 1940’s apartment with no A/C.

By: Russ Starke - www.usedwigs.com


"30 Music"

Loud. Kalpana, are, if anything, emphatically loud. Loud, in it’s relative association to their lucid and whispered hush. It’s a comparative union that is their greatest strength. For sure, regardless of whether or not you are a passive or aggressive consumer of today’s popular music you are at least aware, if not overtly immersed in the multitude of bands that wear black clothing, have numerous piercing and/or tattoos, and embody the essence of angst as they make their guitars scream and yell with distortion pedals and cranked amplifiers.

Amidst this Kalpana are absolutely refreshing. Their loudness, although derivative of the angry switchbox that makes the guitar a roaring lion, is a combustion of their visceral force and, seemingly, their joy of making music. Kalpana also do not fit any mold which makes them hard to place, and at the same time, makes them interesting.

They are basically an instrumental band with vocals, if that makes sense. There is some screaming and some hushed poppy vocalizations and progressions but they are song fillers rather than drivers. Their music is influenced by heavy metal technique but the style varies often creating songs with eclectic elements. There are deliberate and calculated riffs and power chords but also guitar lines, dreamy keyboards, and drum machines. It’s a nice little record. Like a stripped-down Mogwai, or a grungy Diagnoah, Kalpana’s Hors de Combat rocks with the best of them, and better than most of them.

By: Ryan Phillips - www.30music.com


"Coke Machine Glow Review"

I was going to start this review off with a personal history of post-rock and what it means to me, etc., but then I looked at our site’s review of Explosions in the Sky, and remembered that it pretty aptly summed up my feelings on the stunted genre. Outside of Slint’s remarkable Spiderland (1991) and Mogwai’s epic Young Team (1997), the whole post-rock scene just strikes me as a little tired, way too serious and extremely, extremely formulaic. If ever a genre was screaming, begging and pleading for an innovator, it’s post-rock. The aforementioned Explosions in the Sky may give us something truly innovative someday, and they’re certainly off to a good start, even if they’re not quite there yet. If not EITS, then who? Perhaps Kalpana can lead the charge.

With guitars that rage, soar, crawl, shimmer, mellow and explode, Kalpana works with the ingredients that most post-rockers know and love. The thing that seems to set them apart is, though I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times before, a unique understanding of dynamics and songwriting; meaning, rather than chug along to the patented formula of “start really quiet, more quiet, a few samples, quiet, a little louder, little louder, getting pretty loud, GUITAR EXLPOSION IN YOUR FACE!!!,” Kalpana attempt to write songs instead of spending their time performing the same template in a different key. And it’s actually quite refreshing. I mean, I like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and all, but did they ever veer off that one formula? It certainly didn’t seem like it.

So, yes, Kalpana write songs; songs that don’t bow down to any one over-arching formula, and as a result, the sound is surprisingly varied and dynamic. When a band can conjure thoughts of Radiohead at one moment and My Bloody Valentine or Mogwai during another in the very same song while still holding their own, they’ve at least graduated from mere formulaic imitation into far more ambitious territory. They do just that on the abrupt “Sic.” With bells complementing the driving guitars and shards of sound on “Save Me.You Can’t Save Me,” Kalpana peaks and creates something that is inexplicably infinite sounding. Their guitars range from sounding like the melodic, soaring work of, say, James Iha, to the driving tones of post-rock’s past, and even the impressive dynamics of recent Sonic Youth releases.

“This Will Be Expensive,” another album highlight, even features frenetic drumming and, though not so much an anomaly of the genre as much as rarely being used effectively, vocals. In fact, the only time Kalpana lose me is on the penultimate track, “Amber,” which is most tied to stereotypical post-rock formulas and song structures. It’s still good, to be fair, but it’s time to move on, Kalpana—especially since you prove yourself more than capable of it.

Hors de Combat is an impressive and at times bewildering combination of melodic, sharp, crashing, searing and soaring dynamics that constantly stays fresh. Kalpana is the most economic epic band to come along in quite some time; they also don’t usually drone their songs on too long, but rather keep it short and to the point—and it works marvelously. It’s this utilization of the familiar post-rock form without relying on it that makes Hors de Combat work where so many others have failed.

It seems to me what people first loved about post-rock was that it was basically jam bands imposing a rigid structure on their jams, and while that was great for a while, it’s essentially a limiting exercise. Kalpana is not a jam band, they write songs that happen to recall the very best that post-rock has to offer, while also borrowing from groups that do not, and have not, had anything to do with the genre. I’m in complete agreement with Scott’s EITS review that the genre needs to either move on, or we need to create a new banner for impressive acts like Kalpana to thrive and expand their sound under. In the meantime, just go buy their record and rock like its 1997.

* 80% of 100 rating

By: Sean Ford - www.cokemachineglow.com


"Greenville News (Greenville, SC)"

From the frozen tundra of Rochester, NY, Kalpana emerge with a masterful grasp of loud-soft-LOUD dynamics and the virtuoso patience to drop a 12 minute masterpiece that is “Amber.” The minute you get comfortable in a twinkly pop groove, they drop four walls inward like a J. Mascis death march, only to cut to an ethereal vocal so you can hear your own heavy breathing. This is a band serving notice of greater things to come.

Sounds Like: At the Drive-In, Trail of Dead, Secret Machines

By: Mario Villanueva - http://www.upstatelink.com


"Lost at Sea"

Five seconds into Hors de Combat, I want to celebrate. This is music I already know I like—the dark and furious kind of post-rock that has caused me to revere bands like Rockets Red Glare, Ring Cicada and Rodan. Adding another branch to the Slint family tree always gives me a bit of joy.

Loud, frantic and spooky at times, the true merit of Hors de Combat is that it functions as a whole. By the time you get to the eerily ambient “Frozen Machines,” the tone has changed—numerous times—yet always unassumingly. From raucous to paranoid, it is the same album; it just takes you from Point A to Point B in an astute and seamless way.

The rocking numbers will grab you by the throat most immediately—“Sic”, in particular, is out for blood—but many of the tracks mark intensity in quiet, nervous progression. “Save Me.You Can’t Save Me” is nearly muted new age at its start but moves to strange and uncertain company in closing. The element of surprise is not as important to Kalpana as gradual shifting, though both take you off guard. Drama seems to creep in everywhere, though always somewhat expected.

The tracks flow well into each other, despite the loping ups and downs. Much of Hors de Combat thrives on subtle movement, letting abrasive bits slip in when appropriate. Despite its violent digressions, the album never seeks to drive its audience away, always letting them make their way quite comfortably.

It is this distinction that makes Kalpana truly different from many of its contemporaries; they allow you to be moved, though humbly and almost imperceptibly. Gently stirring, Hors de Combat is a work of able refinement.

By: Sarah Peters - http://lostatsea.net/


"Skratch Magazine"

Four Hundred Years-style post-hardcore with sparse, barely intelligible vocals similar to those of Mogwai. Add a pinch of Codeseven’s The Rescue and you’ve got a pretty fair summation of Hors de Combat. The music never sounds copycatted, though, and is in many parts an interesting and refreshing blend of the aforementioned groups. There are too many cathartic moments to count, all placed seamlessly among some of the most powerful and intense music available, all of which is accomplished without being unnecessarily heavy. The album’s fifth track, “Save Me.You Can’t Save Me”, features a multi-layered synth interlude so beautiful that there should be an emotion named after it. With the ability to create something of that nature coupled with their inevitable growth as a band (and perhaps the benefit of a better recording), Kaplana could very well become the kind of mass-admired, stalwart group used as the basis of such “band + band = band” reviews.

By: Casey Clague - www.skratchmagazine.com


"Three Imaginary Girls"

The morsels of jaundiced light that make it through your bent and haggard Venetian blinds, taunt you. Everything outside of the set of walls where you ferment seems futile. You let the soft mattress envelop your entire body. For a moment you entertain the idea of climbing out of it, climbing out of this malaise but decide that would only make you tired. In all of this crushing sadness you begin to understand the unbounded beauty and possibility in the fleeting nature of existence and something that could almost be described as hope emerges, making itself a bit more available than it had been in moments passed. This is, more or less, the effect of Kalpana’s debut release Hors de Combat.

Kalpana’s sound is brooding, dark, and introspective—a captivating amalgam of sounds that conjure up bands such as Rodan, Explosions in the Sky, Kill Sadie, and even a little Up On Ins. From the moment I placed Hors de Combat into my stereo I’ve had a hard time taking it out. Nine well crafted songs clock in at over fifty minutes.

Kalpana, at its core, has the traditional rock band foundation of two guitars, bass, and drums. However, they take their time to let songs grow and realize themselves, adding keys, percussion and samples. Vocals are used sparingly and when they do come into a song they don't attract attention to themselves. They are unassuming and merely affix another layer of sound and texture to the already lush, expansive dreamscape that they have spun. This is an impressive first release. If you don’t find this recording and listen to it in an attempt to escape those around you by turning inward, shame on you.

*8 of 11 rating
- http://www.threeimaginarygirls.com


"Splendid Zine Review"

Kalpana's ethereal metal exists at the crossroads of Sigur Rós and Linkin Park; Hors de Combat made an ideal soundtrack to my late-night wanderings through the New York City subways last month. The album flows in fits and starts, quickly changing from the placidity of an empty metro station at 2:00 a.m. to the clattering rush of a long awaited train home.
Forcefully precise, "The Voice is Dead" opens with the clickety-clack of frantic drumsticks that consistently provide a crystalline backbone, reflecting beams of light as they contort throughout the album's stylistic shifts. This song bleeds into "Thirty-four Stories of Ana Mendieta", a dirge for dueling guitars that lulls the listener into a state of hypnosis, then rains down sheets of crashing cymbals and power chord chaos, interspersed with gently plucked guitar that harkens back to the lead line on Bob Marley's "Could you be Loved?"

Hors de Combat progresses like a particularly tumultuous subway ride; it barely moves through the lilting "We have Illegal Weapons", but picks up speed during the mechanical breaks, during which the far-away and echoing voices stop, allowing the drums and guitar to mechanically syncopate with a Fugazi-like attention to detail. Lyrics are, for the most part, indistinguishable smears across the darkly glittering atmosphere. The ride is no more consistent during the album's largely instrumental middle section, in which raucous synthesizers, soothing glockenspiels and perambulating guitar licks interlock like harmonious patterns of shadows and light. Even "This Will be Expensive"'s chorus of screams feels no more disruptive to the album's overall sense of space and serenity than the influx of a group of subdued strangers pouring routinely into the subway car. The mammoth "Amber", clocking in at 12:31, concentrates on creating a variety of ambiences and crawling methodically through them, as if the underground has suddenly turned into a cavern and we are given the time to observe stalactites and stalagmites through the train's windows. So fascinating are these unusual forms and textures that it's easy to lose track of time and not even notice how long the song is. The closer's title, "Frozen Machines", evokes a feeling applicable to the entire album: one of icy intricacy and desolate exactitude.

A highly intriguing and surprisingly addictive album, Hors de Combat creates soundscapes that would easily compliment any urban venture -- the more unfamiliar, the better.

By: Sarah Silver - www.splendidezine.com


Discography

Hors de Combat CD (Redder Records, 2004)--Worked by AAM/Sunday Service to over 500 college and independent radio stations: tracked to heavy and medium rotation at many stations; Will be played at over 800 American Eagle retail stores in fall 2004 through DMX Music promotion; mp3 downloads available through label, band and several review websites.

S/T CDEP (Redder Records, 2003)--Sold on tour, 300 copies, hand silkscreened, SOLD OUT.

In addition, Kalpana is played regularly by these fine commercial / independent radio stations:

KBOO
WDCE
WGSU
CKUT
WWVU
KFAI
WBER
KWCW
KHNS
WLJS
WSBU
CJUM
WSJU
WDCE
WBRS
WICB
WRBB
WMHD
KCSU
KEOL

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Kalpana's sound is described by CMJ as "a promising mix of Chicago-style noise and post-rock atmosphere." The music is an economic take on the epic guitar rock of bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, with brash electronic elements and beats interspersed for added depth. The foursome's sonically varied catalog presents shared vocal and instrumental duties in shifting combinations, depending on the song or even the moment. Uncharacteristic bass lines and inventive drum patterns provide a solid groundwork for the melodies formed by multiple synthesizers, guitars, and layered vocals. The end result alternates between hauntingly intricate and brutally powerful.

Kalpana formed in Rochester, NY in 2003 and after a handful of Northeast tours and periodic shows around the NYC area, the now Brooklyn-based group released their latest effort, an EP entitled "This Dead Horse." The new material is the band's most beautiful and compelling to date, showing a definite progression from the songwriting displayed on their 2004 Redder Records debut, "Hors de Combat." Kalpana's discography also includes two compilations featuring other artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Saturday Looks Good To Me, Kind of Like Spitting, From Monument to Masses, and Detachment Kit.

RIYL:
Mogwai, Juno, M83, Ester Drang, Explosions in the Sky