Review: Budhaditya Chattopadhyay – Elegy For Bangalore

While Elegy For Bangalore centres on an unmistakable drone of petrol combustion, bustling people and building site whirr, Chattopadhyay’s sonic representation of India’s emerging urban developments sounds warped. Somehow the environment is both distant and enveloping, manifesting a both a 360-degree immersion and an intangible snow globe of sound; claustrophobia jeers from the horizon, as buildings and vehicles refract into disorientating overlaps of past and present tense, folding over themselves as shadows of reverb and delay. Much of the source material will be familiar to those regularly engaged with urban life: fracturing jackhammers, blurs of simultaneous flea market conversation, tannoy system slap-back, the throbbing chorus of traffic noise.

Yet the treatment of these events projects them onto the borders of the surreal, tapping into both rhythms and melodic content that feels too deliberate and calculated to spawn entirely from urban life’s collision of chance and accident. Musicality haunts the piece like a ghost, thickening into explicit tonal hums that lurk beneath the city’s churn like bass frequency sewer works, or dripping over the din as whining drones that could be gigantic birds or dying aeroplanes. Little clangs of metal and car horns are twisted into communicative rhythmic patterns, while a ping-pong delay picks up protrusive sonic debris and ricochets it off the invisible stereo walls.

Far from an objective document of Bangalore’s urban uprising, Elegy For Bangalore is a shadow cast in the wake of the city’s formerly idle persona; a lens converged by past experience and present belief. A notable fact is that much of the field recording took six months to compile and a further two years to materialise as a composition. Yet for all its unrealism, the soundscape feels nonetheless fluid and eternally present – rather than alluding to its previous existence as several scattered fragments of audio, Elegy For Bangalore is like the immortal capital city of a parallel realm, beautifully convincing even in its contorted form.