Sundara Karma's secret songs

Lifestyle editor Jess Herbert reviews the new songs secretly released by Sundara Karma

Jess Herbert
4th June 2020
Instagram: @sundarakarma

It started with a link, subtly embedded in an Instagram story. It was easy to miss. It led to a dark corner of SoundCloud and, if you flicked the light on, you’d find three new Sundara Karma songs. 

The Reading-based, alternate indie pop band have been teasing new music for a while. According to their Instagram, these songs are ‘from the Ulfila’s sessions’ which suggests they were rejected from the band’s second studio album. So, although lead vocalist, Oscar Pollock, promised there’d be new music before the summer, this seems to be more of a snack to keep our appetites satisfied until their third record arrives.

All three tracks celebrate the classic Sundara Karma sound: the stark, live drumbeat torn across a synthetic, electric backdrop, and garnished with Pollock’s immediately, identifiable vocal. 

The first track, ‘Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday’, is an intoxicatingly loud opener. The attention seeking snare drum pulls you into the production and refuses to let you go as the wall of noise builds. Each new instrument emerges with confidence, ensuring the listening experience is full of turbulent excitement.

Each note carries a ghostly pitch, adding to the track’s immersive potential

The lyrics would not be out of place in an anthology of modernist poetry. We are fed a juxtaposition between life and death as the ‘pinkest peach’ rots and the naked figure is ‘doused in blood’. This creates an erotic emalgamation of love and decay, which is heightened by Pollock’s haunting vocal. Each note carries a ghostly pitch, adding to the track’s immersive potential as we are confronted with our own mortality.

The second song is ‘Invade Safe Space.’ Its explosive opening materialises as a captivating, blues-inspired guitar riff, which paves the way for the rest of the track to be charged with boisterousness. The guitar competes with the drums, the drums battle the vocal, and the vocal challenges the unexpected cymbal solo. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

‘Invade Safe Space’ surpasses the status of a song and becomes a riot; it confronts the cage of indie pop and refuses to be bound by the restraints of its genre. As Pollock sings ‘I changed a few lines on the sketches’ we understand that this song is about reconstruction, but perhaps this is also a commentary on how Sundara Karma are working now. By making their instruments louder, their structure chaotic and their lyrics cryptic, they become anarchic.

The vocal sheds its previous haunting quality and gains an angelic edge

The final song, ‘Vision Sick’, is only a fraction more subdued, but this balances out the thrill of the earlier tracks. The chorus is delicate, almost ethereal. The vocal sheds its previous haunting quality and gains an angelic edge. But while Pollock’s voice is so captivating, their teamwork is unmissable here, as the abundance of instrumentals let the other band members shine. As you swill this final minute and a half around your glass, you detect hints of Joy Division, Talking Heads and, even, Arctic Monkeys, yet it is still unmistakably Sundara Karma. Their blend of synthetic, edgy basslines and dynamic, live recordings create the idiosyncratic production that underpins all their work.

The sudden note of silence that concludes the instrumental is unexpected. It contrasts the vibrant noise so dramatically that it leaves you breathless, craving more. 

The trio of tracks contain such an abundance of energy that by the end I felt exhausted on the band’s behalf. The passion that Sundara Karma inject into their music is unrivaled and these secret songs were the perfect way to get us excited for their summer release.
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