Have the Machines Won? The Growth of EP Culture in India
When Germany’s Kraftwerk trampled all over North American soil with the gnomic “Autobahn” — a 25 minute something warning bell to herald the electronica parade, lampooned by its own chorus — “Fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn” — one journalist penned of their sound: “an indictment of all those who would resist the bloodless iron will and order of the ineluctable dawn of The Machine. (Lester Bangs for Creem, September 1975)
He was speaking, of course, about the synthesizer — a human reaction to the catatonic progression of a Moog bass, the haunting disconnection of a vocoder, and the unsolved simplicity of a 4/4 motorik drum machine. Kraftwerk’s core members Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider argued that that the synthesizer was actually quite sensitive when compared to ‘traditional instruments’ like a guitar, that it feeds off unique vibrations from each person— which begged the question, how long before the machines start playing us?
Here’s a localized update: to say that the software versions of these synths are easily available is redundant, to say they’ve worked their way up our spines to the hackneyed, day-dreaming, deadline-failing, gorge of a cerebral cortex we call a creative output is vital.
I’m saying digital audio workstations celebrate impulse. A bedroom producer is every bit of a premature surgeon; hacking and re-sampling till his odd collection of stems and presets cage some form of composition.
Sparingly, India has seen some impressive artists emerge from this drift but they’re only one half of the digital crusade. Their audiences are wired in to the same impulse component — spliced Mp3s and coffee-stained CD rips — an entire generation driven towards instant gratification and the art of the extended play.
Is the increasing number of EPs in local electronic music a sign of our artists force-feeding the masses, or is that simply as far as their incisions go?
Rising local artists speak out.
I. Sanaya Ardeshir: Sandunes
It seems that with the rising volume of electronic music being churned out in tandem with steadily declining attention spans (thanks to the digital age), not many people have the same kind of patience to listen through entire albums. Personally, having done both, I feel like it’s more relevant to put out an EP so that one burst of musical expression can tie together one release as it’s a shorter time span. Creatively, there’s less of a risk of your taste/tools or devices altering your sound dramatically and you’re only reinventing your sound from release to release, and not within one release itself. So, currently I’m riding the EP wave.
II.Ketan Bahirat: Until We Last
Until We Last as a project has always been conceptual. We felt the need to put out the tracks on our debut ‘Earthgazing’ as an EP in particular so everyone gets what we’ve been up to, and it’s easier to understand the direction of music we make. It’s almost as if we wanted to create a prequel to a full-length album.
III. Sarvesh Shrivastava: Sickflip
In my opinion, there are a few aspects to the rise of the ‘EP’ culture in electronic music globally. Recently, producers and artists might find releasing an EP a way more viable approach to making a statement and establishing their sound (or product differential) than going in for a full length album which is a way more complex (not complicated) mesh of creation and execution.
A full-length album requires emphasis on intricacies like flow, intro, outro, journey through the album, the importance of a relevant and resonating artwork, which transfigures this monumental aural identity into a visual representation. The above mentioned aspects could be overlooked or dealt with casually in the EP culture as it holds a concise gist of what the artist wants to put out.
IV.Shoumik Biswas: Disco Puppet
Disco Puppet is my space to be very self-indulgent. So, there was no specific reason for ‘Astronot’ to be an EP. It’s just that I wanted the tracks to be short; a taste of the sound. Personally, I have no anxieties about putting out work fast or anything. But sometimes, artists want to put out EPs to test out how they are received by an audience, before they make the effort of a full length album — like a testing ground.
V.Nikhil Kaul: Frame/Frame
There is definitely a marked change in the way producers around the world are releasing their music. I think a large part of the reason why the EP has become a favoured form is because of the way music is being consumed via social media. There is such a high output of music on YouTube, Bandcamp, SoundCloud and other platforms that in order for a relatively new artist like myself, it becomes important to release music at regular intervals to stay relevant, at least until such a time that the audience is absolutely craving for a full length release…
To me, a single is a short story and an EP is more of a collection, but an album is novel, an artist’s magnum opus. Naturally, writing one of these is going to be a time consuming affair and I only hope that some people choose to listen to my first attempt at one in the near future. But, there’s an EP coming later this month in any case.
written by Jash Reen
graphic by Wolves