Acharya – Tilt – EP Review
It’s not too often that I bust this comment out, so take this to heart – Acharya is ahead of the game. Very interesting in the sense that I fully believe this collaborative-spirited duo out of California has an extremely appealing sound that’s been justifiably compared to killer mainstream acts from Death Cab For Cutie to Tears For Fears – but I’d truly be willing to bet there is even more here to be offered in Acharya that will be displayed over time…material strong enough to earn them a seat at a table like that. Don’t get me wrong – they’re ALREADY doing that…I’m just talking long-term…like you’ll see years down the road that Acharya will be that same kind of band that will never let your expectations or theirs, slide. But as inviting as songs, atmosphere, and attitude of this band is – I also think that their twist on the overall sound and their writing is still a step ahead of the world right now…they’ll need to be patient & wait for us all to catch up in order to really recognize just how sincerely special & extraordinary they are.
And I say that, because you’ll hear it in the incredible writing they have…the uniqueness & artistic sound of Acharya is absolutely next-level stuff on all fronts; you can hear it in the music, you can hear it in the words, and it’s all right there in the vocals for you as well…they put genuine heart & soul into every second. While the phrasing, pace, composition, and structures are often so noticeably different to so many other bands out there with similar sounds – in my mind, you can tell that what Acharya is doing is taking that evolutionary step that connects music to our emotions and embeds these moments in our minds for all-time. Every one of these five tunes on the Tilt EP were massively impressive and a strong indication that they’re absolutely on the right path…and if they’re patient, I guarantee the world will one day catch up to them & that they’ll be right there at the forefront of a whole new wave of music & art.
Maybe it starts now, if they’re lucky. But in pulling off an EP as good as this upon debut, you’ve gotta assume that Acharya is still like everyone else fundamentally – the sound will still evolve, grow, and expand…essentially that, as good as they are now – and they’re amazing – they’ll still get even better. You can mark my words & place your bets…Acharya could fully go the distance – feel free to quote me on that. I love what this band has going on. It might be the case that they’re maybe a bit too chill, artistic, and melodic to catch on like wildfire with the masses immediately – I get that to some extent, I’m sure they do too and they’re prepared for that response. But lest we forget, some of the biggest blazes that we’ll ever see all once started with the tiniest of sparks before revealing just how bright & huge they’ll eventually become. The more oxygen that Acharya and the Tilt EP gets, the faster their fire will build, grow, spread and start roaring to impressive heights…and believe me when I say, once you hear how well these guys do what they do, you’ll wanna sit by that fire and listen for as long as you can. Ultimately that’s what I’m saying…people en masse rarely rush to a low-key sound or artistic endeavor like this, which will always say more about the masses than it will ever say about music – but the people WILL eventually discover Tilt…and when they do, they’re gonna be fans for life, I have no doubt about it.
Like right off the bat, to me, “Spearhead” is freakin’ genius on so many levels it’s insane for how subtle they play it overall…it’s innovation like this that sneaks up on you long before you realize just how smart & complex, inventive, and straight-up professional it all really is. LISTEN to the way the lyrics & vocals interact with the music and the way things flow…because this is seriously intricately designed music that’s got jaw-dropping attention to detail. In a remarkably controlled performance that shows just how much perspective and innovation they combine, “Spearhead” is far from typical in all the right ways. They make their style of Avant-Pop known immediately, not even remotely hiding the artistic nature, but instead elevating it right into the spotlight for all to see. One of the things that I really love about “Spearhead” and all of the subsequent tunes on the Tilt EP is how few words there quite often are, but how much they truly say, and how they’re also able to expand them in a really unique way to make them stretch out throughout more of the song than you’d ever expect when reading them on paper. The guitar tones from Josh Grayem scorch sweetly with awesome sound, his vocals are relentlessly on-point, ethereal in tone and powerful as they are subtle…much the same could be said about this entire EP from Acharya. I absolutely found this first tune to be seriously captivating from lyrics to music – the movement, precision, sincerity, and real heart that these guys perform with is a pure work of art.
The title-track “Tilt” is still every bit as completely shiny & single-worthy now as it was when I had first heard & reviewed it in advance of the full EP coming out, back in September this year. I maintain, it’s one of the best cuts I’ve heard in 2018 as far as singles go, as far as establishing identity goes, and for what I’d personally want to listen to myself as well – “Tilt” has it all, it did then, it does now, it will in the future as well – Acharya is building an entire sound that will last over time. The bass from Matt Coate is so unbelievably rad to listen to that you can’t help but get into the pace, rhythm and groove of this tune. You factor in the impeccable timing, strong hits, incredible tone and punch that Daniel Blackburn brings to the drums every single time you hear him as well, and you should have everything your ears are looking for & more in “Tilt.” Again, it really comes down to the writing and structure so often in their music – they have an inexplicable way of moving through their music that is truly unlike the rest out there, so noticeable that it’s bound to always be a factor in what draws people in to listen to Acharya. Bottom line here, there’s not a step out of place when it comes to “Tilt” and it’s fully loaded with impressively subtle dynamics that continually entertain the ears from beginning to end. Have I said enough? Still don’t believe me yet? Read the last review I wrote on “Tilt” right here for further proof.
“Vigilance” is a great cut that highlights the mechanics of their artistic inclinations at work. There’s no doubt that it probably feels more weighty to a listen than the first two tracks do, but you’ll also notice that Acharya continually expands their ideas as this EP plays on. Every track on it is longer than the last, drawing out a few more elements in the list of ingredients that make this band so spectacular straight to the surface. In many ways, this is probably the heaviest idea on the record to absorb…they pack a ton of emotion into this tune, along with gripping instrumentation – and like all-things-Acharya, they choose to do it all at their own creative pace. Very much in the vein of something like you’d expect from Styrofoam on “Vigilance” in that sense…you can really feel the pull towards the sweet-sound of the main vocal hooks, which are supplied by Josh’s brother Melvin Grayem – and you also have a ton of stuff happening in the surrounding beat & music you hear that also gets a real moment in the spotlight to shine on this tune. Really impressive stuff right from the get-go…like how it almost sounds like the tapping on strings forming the beat as percussion at the very beginning of this tune, which it very well may be; but listen to the way this cut is formed all-around – the guitars come up with stunning ideas that contribute powerfully to this tune. What’s really cool about so much of the music of Acharya is how each ingredient is quite often a simple or small complement to an even larger idea overall…you’ll hear how they stack these things up on a song like “Vigilance,” and continue to diversify the sound even further through the heavier breakdown that this song spans into. If I’m being truthful, I think it’s the producers and most dedicated music-heads out there that can really appreciate what goes into a recording that will get the most out of this particular tune; in terms of accessibility, there’s probably more of a reach for the everyday listener to grasp onto “Vigilance” by comparison to the rest. But that’s OK…like I’ve said at the very beginning of this review, the people WILL come around to ‘get it’ eventually if they don’t immediately – & not just a piece of it, but ALL of it.
I think one of the biggest surprises you’ll hear and love from this EP comes on “Stand,” where Acharya adds even more diversity to their catalog of tunes by adding in co-writer Rachel Wagner to the stunning vocals and piano on this tune. The two main men of Acharya, Josh and Daniel, create the rest of the brilliant music you hear surrounding her, with Josh adding in the addictive chorus-hooks as well. Everyone plays a significant role in the success of this tune’s final results. Nearly reaching the five-minute mark on “Stand,” – this cut continually gets better and better as it plays on…which is like…kinda phenomenal actually. Rachel starts this tune off on such magnificently solid ground to begin with, Josh keeps everything bulletproof in the hooks of the chorus, and the ending…the ENDING of this track somehow leads them all into a blissfully captivating & combined perfection. So much to love about this song, from the collaborative spirit to the courage it actually takes as well as artists to surrender a bit of the control they’d normally have by incorporating other musicians, to the spectacular & spellbinding results they achieve. That final switch they make as a unit, shifting into that last transition around the 3:45 mark isn’t just one of the best ideas I’ve heard this year – it’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard in music period, full-stop. I could try and fumble for the words to describe the perfection in the execution of their ambitions and intentions with this tune – but they’re all right there for you in the music, crystal clear for all to hear. I can’t have words for everything dear readers, dear friends – some moments defy description of any kind and they can only be experienced – this is definitely one of those times. I’m amazed by the writing, I’m amazed by the musicianship, I think Rachel is absolutely world-class in every possible way, and I think Acharya in general, deserves a full shout-out and salute for collaborating this deeply with their music. We’re not talking about small contributions here – Rachel and Josh singing together are essential in what makes this track as magical as it becomes & all parties involved should truly be proud of an extraordinary effort here.
“Continuum” reveals that professional control and specific sound that Acharya is completely able to call their own & brings to the entire music-scene in their own humble way. You get that spellbinding pace and way they chop up their lyrics and vocals to flow so impressively & artistically, you get that dose of the way that creates the hooks, rhythm, and melody that complement the music so well, you get the multiple parts all strung together with flawless transitions and colorfully imaginative ideas, you get absolutely spectacular sound & clarity…you get all this & more. It’s just such straight-up interesting music to listen to from all angles. From the complex composition that becomes such immaculately smooth sound, to the noteworthy musicianship and impeccable timing they move with, to the insightful lyricism that uses words thoughtfully, sparsely, but powerfully – quite honestly, I don’t know how anyone out there could listen to Acharya and not be entirely impressed by just how much focus they’ve put into their music. Even in what you’d probably consider to be the riskiest departure in sound during the breakdown of “Continuum” where they head straight into a more experimental moment for their music, they’re never anything less than completely captivating to listen to. And of course for some out there, hopefully many, that appreciate the artistic courage it takes to depart from what’s essentially all-hooks into something more challenging to the mind in the middle of a song – it’s parts like these that show Acharya has got a lot more in store for you than the average band. I love the way Josh sings the hook of the chorus on this tune like a mantra to guide us all – “Don’t let the vain prevail” is a seriously powerful line on “Continuum” that absolutely hits the mark, and also reveals a lot of the mindset & motivation within the artists that are making the amazing music in Acharya as well. Ain’t just that one line either – all of these lyrics that you’ll find on the Tilt EP are truly impressive; I admire the amount of space that is used in this style of writing, especially hearing how well it complements the vibe in their music, because all that space really allows for each listener out there to adopt their own meanings or develop their own unique & personal attachment to what’s being sung. Always insightful, quite often inspiring, and refreshingly poetic in a very selective & stylistic way that forms an incredible pairing with the music of Acharya – I’m tellin’ ya people, they’re onto something huge here & they’re just getting started. As subtle as their sound might be – everything about Tilt suggests it could make a massive impact with the listeners out there. Stunning musicianship, extraordinary vocals, and truly impressive ideas that are highly memorable & reveal this band is thinking on a whole other level – Acharya crushed the Tilt EP and stole my whole heart in the process – I love everything about what this band is doing.
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