A widely uncredited quote by the infamous Charles Bukowski always sticks with me. “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way“. This has rung true for whatever art I have chosen to deliberate over. All I have are words at my disposal, and I hope I do this artist justice. This is Vishal Naidu with his album, Fragments of Serenity.
Vishal Naidu doesn’t just make music. He has his own company that deals with all things music. He’s an engineer by profession, yet takes time out for his passion. Dabbling in various forms of music, he wields his primary instrument, the guitar, with pride. He’s explored many genres and currently indulges creating in a few. This is his second album after his 2020 EP, Circadian.
The shift in tone and sound
I had the chance to talk to this artist about his album, and it was an insightful side of him I got to see. “Circadian was mainly a post-rock album which was inspired by Ichika Nito during the lockdown. It was a collection of short songs with ambiance and melodies, and one major complain I got from most of them that heard my album was that the songs are too short (even though it was intentional)” says Vishal, when I asked him about the shift from Circadian to this new album. “I just picked up my acoustic guitar one day and decided to compose something longer and record it, that’s when “Untravelled” was born“.
There isn’t enough time in the world to articulate the feelings of an instrumental album. Yet, I channel my feelings after the first listen of these tracks. Memories of A Forgotten Past is the first track on this album. Vishal says ” While neofolk isn’t in the mainstream, it’s something which allowed me to get lost in the beauty of nature with the accompanying instruments. When I first listened to Vàli, it was a magical experience. It was almost like I transported myself into the woods in Norway and explored the forests there.” From the words of an artist, you hear precisely that. It is astonishing how organically close he has come to recreating the several ethereal layers of the forest. You see, the advantage I have is not have visited the place. In some ways, this is Vishal’s epilogue of this mystic and powerful space he visited. A spiritual awakening of sorts, that he words with his strings.
Master strokes-by touch
A prolific balance of ambience and crafted sound is clear with the tracks. The raw richness of the human touch hasn’t had a digital wipe down, it resonates with the strokes and slides of creative, sound chord progressions. Just the first track warrants a search of his inspirations for this kind of music. “Agalloch was my main influence for nature elements in songs, when I first heard their song “Pantheist” and explored deeper, I found the sound I was looking for all my life. Then followed the never-ending search for similar music. Eventually when I released Circadian, the influences were bound to come out of me for the future tracks and I wanted to make something surrounding nature which eventually turned into a series of songs and the album “Fragments Of Serenity.” says Vishal.
Consider his second track, Whisper of Trees. The part of the world is seemingly stitched around you, as you absorb the ambience of these magical woods that exist beyond you. You then hear the trees chant, and luckily they speak through strings. Following that one looped moment that is all serenity. The progression is every bit mysterious as it is provocative-for thought and a demanding visual. Wrapped around by imagination and not reality, we soak in the searing truth of the instrument that is messenger.
Collaborating & Creating
Says Vishal, about this track Whisper of Trees “As it started getting more traction, I decided to record my next track with a different method of recording based on the inputs (through the mic) and that’s when “Whisper Of Trees” was composed. At this point I was sure that I want to make a full-length neofolk album and there was no looking back “.
Tracks like Petrichor and Enchanted Creek are of the singularity of a moment, laid out over several minutes. Each track has the ability to be able to speak without words, and that’s where I seemingly fail. The album has a three word title, and the track a name. I have spent countless letters now typing out something that has taken hold of me, yet I feel the need to deliberate on it. The curse of instrumental music is the thought it can probe into. The curse of good instrumental music is watching a critic fail to describe what he is paid to write.
Beyond words & verses
“It was a wonderful learning experience where I got to see different perspectives and ways of composition. Even though the genre is the same, there’s obviously infinite ways how songs are composed, so this dynamic was unique where we got to extend each other’s progressions and melodies. On the other side of the process – It was hard and stressful where it took a long time for the song to come online. The sending across of stems, mixing it to sound consistent, and the tempo changes along with re-works on different parts made it very challenging, but it was all worth it in the end.” says Vishal, when I asked about his remote collaboration with Thurnin for Distant Lands. It combines the brilliance of two artists creating a single masterpiece with different strokes.
Vishal Naidu also collaborates with Aditya Ramesh, for Enchanted Creek. Making art together during these trying times has been complex, but if you hadn’t read it here, you wouldn’t know. Vishal has worked with Mohit Bagur for mixing Distant Lands and Joshua for mastering, to create the pocket of sound he felt this album deserved. Bravo on sculpting a vibrant world for this music. The artist took it upon his own hands to mix the rest of the album.
Imagery-At first glance
Now, there is an entire question of interpretation that Vishal has answered, which I will not put here consciously. There is an image that he has, he recreates in a form of art that is his own. The advantage of you listening to Fragments of Serenity is picturing everything he hopes you would visualize. If he comes close, he has been successful. If he doesn’t, he’s created a whole new path of thought for you. I could have pulled out all the stops on this kind of album, it still would fall short. 1000 words in, with nothing to say.
It would be foolish to lyrically ruminate over each track that is on this album. I have reveled in mine, lost in a haze, surrounded by a forest. A book wouldn’t be enough to fill in what this album has made me feel. Yet, if I entertain this train of thought, I realize I was lost only in one moment. A fragment of serenity perhaps. Allow me to leave you with a piece of lore from the artist Vishal Naidu himself:
Memories of a forgotten past makes its way into the present
Trees whisper the tales once lost in these woods
Washed away by the cleansing rains amongst the chaos
Pieces which fit, remembered by the distant lands
Fragments lay beside the enchanted creeks
Nocturnal woods conceal the paths untravelled
Her chaos destroys, her chaos heals
As these fragments of serenity slowly drift into one, it’s all coming back together.
Listen to his album below. Do consider physical copies to truly experience the sound: