6LA8 (Part 1): An Attempt To Condense And Convey…
“Society is nothing but a long established change. And, any massive change can become socially relevant. Art (in a broader spectrum) has that potential to inspire, ignite and accelerate any massive changes, just as long as there is a ‘realised’ connection to it. We believe art is a great catalyst in humanity’s search for meaning in general. But a catalyst works only if it is placed in the desired environment with the necessary ingredients,” said Taimur Mazhar Sheikh and Omer Asim from Pakistan who formed their experimental project 6LA8 post branching out from the avant-garde outfit Aus Rine.
Apart from not conforming to any comfortable backbone of a pre-existing genre or distinctive influence, their music is only meant for those who are willing to explore the murky depths of drone-esq obscurity and perhaps seek solace in the mystery of subtle inflections. In their own words, their artistic identity is an attempt to condense and convey the frustrations and desires that result from wishful thinking and pessimism. “Essentially, what we feel is the underlying connection between all of us; it’s what makes us human. And yet, it is the hardest and most terrifying thing to fathom, associate with and admit in logic. It makes the best and the worst of 6LA8. We are nothing but drifters in the void and naive are our little floating ships,” said the duo.
Completely besotted with layered, moody and seclusive drone music, 6LA8 have masterfully composed melodic nuances with delicate finesse. Enlivening the faint rhythmic interplay of stormy drones amidst flecks of meandering base lines, most of their compositions despite the synthetic textures are an honest tribute to the aching vulnerability of human emotions. Sometimes within the cohesion of their symphonies and structures lie moments that embody the quiescence of our solitude; moments that cloak the resounding chaos of conflicted minds with an aura of tranquility; and moments when thoughts cease to exist. Often constructing such experiences by altering emotional expressions into powerful fragments of perceivable reality, the artistes have gradually managed to cultivate serenity through their craft.
“6LA8 goes with how we feel, which genres of music we are currently inspired from or which genres we would like to dabble into. Our overarching influence comes from post-rock and drone music not unlike Gridlock, Mogwai, GY!BE and Boris to name a few. However, over the years, we’ve had loads of changes in musical tastes that can be attributed to our torrid affairs with jazz, world, country, pashtun, house music, anime OSTs and OC Remixes of game soundtracks,” said Taimur who further added that a massive contributing factor to their music primarily lies with their preference of having absolutely none or minimal and slightly wandering lyrics. So, it makes more sense for them to describe the mood rather than the genre. Another prominent feature of their compositions is the usage of spoken word or native music samples. However, that doesn’t mean that their music is transcribed to those samples instead they complement each other beautifully by sharing a rippling emotion, a source of inspiration or maybe even the same pleas.
On multiple occasions, the duo have combined music with other versatile media by extracting recordings from their experiments with simultaneous broadcasts and other field recordings. Moreover, they’ve always liked their music to have faults. “We’ve listened to music with devices in the background that tend to distort melodies. And, that always stuck with us. So, in our songs we might have interferences, static noise, and even some off-putting harmonics to serve as a realisation that, at the end of the day, we are just two guys composing music. Perhaps it is contrary to the idea of escapism in music but it is also humbling and honest. It’s a reminder of how much curiosity and ambitions could reward you, and how making and listening to melodies is a symbiotic process. We want people to reach out to us as much as we want to reach out to them,” explained the artistes. Their journey gradually resulted in an efficient yet unobtrusive amalgamation of intricately crafted sounds, one that required their music to breathe and not just be confined to any preconceived goals, genres or ambitions.
Mirroring our reality through sounds
According to the musicians, living in Karachi is like being trapped in a Salvadore Dali painting — absurdism galore. Different local cultures and western influences clash brazenly, resulting in a fast-paced and yet a uniquely blended world inside the city. So, it comes as no surprise that the conflict of opinions, beliefs and morals apart from an overwhelming influx of information that the city has to offer has had an influence on their creative journey.
“It is where you will see the best of humanity working side by side with the worst, and the shocking fact is that this is considered commonplace for the locals. Karachi is restraining but not policing, entertaining but not accepting, conservative but not traditional. The duality of Karachi (existence and discussion of multiple opinions, denial of all but a few) was the reason for my inquisitive nature. As I grew up, I was surprised to see how easily people adapted to the conditions of the city which unfortunately have often been harsh and uninviting. The sea of beliefs widened my thinking and broadened my horizons into accepting those differences of opinion and that invited me to be curious about everything. Being curious about music led to 6LA8,” explained Taimur who also said that they had written an ode to Karachi a while ago. The track is absurd, brash, hectic and fatiguing. Yet, if you can look past all that, there is something to be appreciated for its sheer cheeky nature.
Often, their melodies seem to be synonymous with sentiments regarding social issues, in which case, they tend to employ spoken word samples to strengthen the source that inspires the composition. For instance, they have voiced their opinions by channeling all their frustrations through their own medium of expression with issues like sexism , censorship and media bias, misguided religious fervour, bolstering yet hollow political speeches, bullying/peer pressure and isolation, and morality in different cultures.
“But these feelings belong to me and Omer. We are no sociologists or psychologists, we cannot comprehend how other people are experiencing their lives. We tend to distill only our emotions in our music to lull people and comfort them, maybe relate with them in a more primitive sense through melodies. Our music exists as a guide/friend for hard times, to soldier on together, to give respite from isolation,” said Taimur who further added that often art and musical reform have to take a backseat in Karachi while more primary notions are addressed.
The Pandora’s box of social denial, logical failure and mental decoupling has led to brutal riots, refusals and bloodshed in the past. So, how can we, so steeped in our musical perspectives, possibly explain and entertain our philosophical rambles to frenzied folk whose basic beliefs are being turned upside down and who are questioning so many facets of their existence? – asked the musician – to which he added, “When you watch TV and just see death, destruction, indifference and despair everywhere, your mental state is shot. Can you imagine the pessimism and hopelessness of Pakistanis every night at dinner when they switch on the news? Their personal resolution is stupendous, but there will always come a time when you reach the breaking point and your media intake will greatly affect your routine and families.”
He also feels that despite the foundational upheaval in Karachi, the resilience of local musicians with respect to nurturing independent music is commendable. However, outside the Internet, Pakistan still needs to accept the audio revolution with respect to globalisation and encourage musicians. “Most acts in Pakistan do not get paid for their hard work; it’s basically a work of love for music, and the reward is seeing your production come to fruition and appreciation. Although Lussun TV has given great initiatives for people to gain insight at how local musicians strive to make their music, we need more productions like them to get some general appreciation for the passion and integrity of our electronic musicians,” said the duo.
Apart from promoting and continuously evolving with their music, artistes are also prepping the aforementioned catalysts and trying consistently to ignite the rise of self-production in Pakistan. Of course, it is an unconscious testing ground; and despite any frustrations that they might harbour, success is coming!
written by Akshatha Shetty