It’s always an honor to get the chance to review music from where I live. I’ve been connected to Vikram Shankar of Cleveland, Ohio for a few years now through our shared musical tastes, and he’s even written a spotlight for this site, too. I knew he was in school earning his degree in music, and I was looking forward to the day when his obvious energy would be unleashed. That day has finally come in the form of his first EP under the name The Vikram Shankar Orchestra. The EP is called “The Hammertong Project”, and it is totally awesome.
Vikram is a lover of all types of progressive music, but he chose to go the electronic route on this EP. He calls this style “electronic shred”, and I think that’s a good name for it, though I would add “trip hop”, too. It’s definitely based in progressive rock and electronic, with a heavy emphasis on the latter. However, you will hear an immense amount of keys and even real drumming in the midst of the electronic beats and programming.
Every single track on this EP simply rocks. It’s fast-paced, fun, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’ll hear lots of sweet electronic filters that make the music a blast to hear, but Vikram’s compositions are serious in that there are real wow moments that should impress any prog fan. The combination of lots of keys with the electronica really does endow a light-hearted melody to the whole EP, too.
Unlike other progressive electronic artists, Vikram’s songs progress much like a progressive rock or metal track. Other progressive electronic artists utilize space and elongated structures that climax at the end, and subtlety is the name of the game. Vikram’s style is not subtle at all (save for one track), and so the music hits you from the first moment and the beats never let up. You will not be waiting around for interesting portions here, as Vikram provides them in boatloads right away, and then transitions between different ideas and time signatures along the way, much like a progressive metal song.
You might call “The Hammertong Project” a concept album of sorts. As you can see, the song titles all originate from Star Wars quotes, and the songs really do lend themselves to those titles. Vikram shows his skills here in evoking images in our heads. “I saw…a city in the clouds”, for instance, does give me images of the worry and desperation that Luke had when he saw the fate of his friends. It’s a more peaceful track that does feel like you are on approach to Bespin’s Cloud City.
The EP is wonderful from beginning to end. I like “They shut down the main reactor…This is madness!”, which has this awesome sci-fi vibe and blunted tones that blast off into some rich keyboards near the end. I also love the aforementioned “I saw…a city in the clouds” for its rich subtlety and its perfect placement in the middle of the EP. My favorite overall, though, is “and that would lead them back…Home!” I love the feelings of fear and urgency in this darker track that features huge swaths of keyboard goodness. It is by far the most surreal track, too, with lots of ambiance and creepy sampling.
Vikram has blown open the doors on his musical genius for us. I’m so happy to get to hear and review his work, and I have a feeling we’ll be hearing much more from him, probably in a different genre, as well. “The Hammertong Project” is obviously crafted with passion and pure energy, and there is this rich enthusiasm to the music that is so addictive. I can’t wait to hear what Vikram has to offer in the future.