Imagyne moving borders
It’s not easy getting in touch with Ashwin Menon – he’s currently busy playing doting husband to the hospitalized half of husband-wife amalgam project Imagyne. “Jesika is down with a viral something,” he explains. The married man is only one of the many skins this self-described ‘ambient speck’ has accumulated over the years.
“I believe in collaboration and experimentation,” he tells me. “I believe in opening up to new avenues and pushing off into murkier waters each day. I believe that national flags are deterrent to creative expression.”
Ashwin and Jesika are all about moving borders.
Riding off impressive credentials (Ashwin is a graduate of the J. J. School of Art and Jesika has studied with Trinity College, London and now teaches in affiliation with Trinity College, London), the duo seem more about collecting experiences. “I always carry a sketchbook wherever I go. During my set at the Freedom Fest in Portugal last year (Ashwin’s DJ handle is Liminal Roots), I’d been drawing inspiration from everywhere – visuals and tattoos and people.”
Deciding to incorporate this entirely different medium into performances, Ashwin handed console control over to Jesika and began, simply put, to paint. The experience he created, though, was bigger than just that.
“I paint live on a 1×1 meter canvas – the work borrows from spontaneity and changes to the sound Jesika’s constructing. We’re still cutting our teeth on sessions.”
Usually, his art evolves into an androgynous character open to audience interpretation.
As an artist he’s influenced by surrealists like Salvador Dali and Robert Venosa – attending whose workshop, Ashwin says, forced him to relearn everything. “What takes over on canvas for me is eyes. I love painting eyes.”
The older you get, the more space you want between your sound – his music has dropped from an early 150 BPM psychedelic bang to a more peaceful 100 BPM ambient groove, fitting snugly over a more mature, mellow place.
“I used to stammer a lot in school, I was so shy. These many years later I’m still shy at the console, I don’t interact with the crowd much. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t a few tricks up my sleeve – I’ll slip an Anoushka Shankar track into the mix when you least expect it. Jesika has a more prog-psy thing going, though.” Purists are scoffed at. “‘Intelligent’ Dance Music? Any music is intelligent to the person it appeals to.”
Their own music is easily accessible and yet defies genre compartmentalization. “We’d love to cut an album, an audio-visual DVD maybe. It’s hard to convert the sounds in my head into sounds on the computer – but we’ll get there.”
Though organic and warm, Imagyne have been relegated, by virtue of playing ‘softer, more chilled out’ music, to either being the opening or closing act. They’re not complaining, but you should when you realize that the lukewarm reception Indian audiences reserve for electronic music that isn’t throbbing third-gen dubstep has basically cornered acts like theirs into playing only at festivals where they have a stage to themselves. Chances are you won’t be experiencing them any time soon.
“Electronic India has wonderful things happening – like BLOT, for instance. But the kind of music we play, unless you’re Audio Ashram and you’re in Delhi, you’re in for a rough ride. We’ve only been at festivals so far in India. We have some dates coming up in the middle-east, and we’re excited about playing at the Dubai Yoga and Music Fest in December – but we aren’t too sure when we’ll be performing back home.”
The project is still testing the waters, however, so keep your fingers crossed.
written by Tej Haldule