Already well established in India, ‘Stray’ is Mukul’s first UK release. Infused with Eastern sensibilities, hip-hop hallmarks, forward thinking electronica and half whispered vocals, ‘Stray’ is undoubtedly an album ahead of yet so representative of its time.
The safe experimental samples and loops on the opening track ‘Ephemeral’ combine with the slightly edgy hushed vocals to create an air of expectation that builds through the haunting strings and hypnotic piano of the subsequent two tracks to climax in track four ‘Why’. It’s at this point that you realise Mukul has somehow cast an enchanting spell on your consciousness and pulled you deeply into his immersive haze.
Constantly expanding on themes and getting ever complex, Mukul’s kaleidoscope of audio delights showcase his heritage, Djing background and innovative thinking. Whilst never outright dark, there’s a potentially deviant side to his music that slowly hangs in the balance and becomes claustrophobic, but at no point does it become too oppressive, not just yet anyway, it’s a fine balance, but one that Mukul can strike with ease.
We are however in need of rescuing and salvation comes in the form of ‘The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”, a short-lived yet effective, vocally percussive and building chant. But it’s not long before Mukul gets back to business. ‘Malice’ is political to say the least. Starting with Nam style helicopter noises and combined with emotive strings, this could be the soundtrack to a modern day war film. It is in fact a reaction to a speech made by George Bush in which he spoke of making Syria or Iran the new ‘Enemy Number One’. Combing samples of George W himself with war noises it’s an effective track and certainly makes you think.
Unfortunately by now we’re half way through the album and whilst not taking a downward turn musically the constant layering begins to get a bit too much and the listening enjoyment is slowly seeping away. It’s as if time has stopped, you’re locked in a room and only Mukul can set you free. Despite the human beat-box and sparse yet sedate piano offerings in the title track and the laid back beats of ‘Dumb’; Mukul’s vocal stylings have changed a slight case of claustrophobia into an oppressive head fuck. You find yourself quite simply at his mercy, but strangely still interested and if the pressure were lifted it would only undo all that has gone before.
Mukul has a very intelligent, multi faceted and unique sound and ‘Stray’ provides the map to exploring just a few of the labyrinths of his mind. An impressive release but one that requires time and commitment.