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In the hope that my audio recorder isn’t bailing on me, I patiently wait as my interviewee ponders over my question: How has Consolidate changed over the last three years? After an indefinite period of silence, Rahul Giri doesn’t mince his words or his thinking on the matter. “I really don’t know man. All I can say is that we’ve worked really hard and are happy with the results.”
Now, I don’t assume everyone knows everyone. But it’s highly unlikely that you’ve dipped your toes in the India’s independent music waters and not felt the ripples (or wave) of Consolidate’s music. To get you up to speed, Consolidate is a Bangalore-based artist collective/record label. Now that that’s established, know that they’re good. Really fucking good. I may be super biased because I’m a fan of their music, but you don’t take my word for it. With roughly nine acts on their cozy roster, they’ve masterfully released an equal number of exceptional projects. To top that off, their acts have also toured several parts of the country and have ticked a spectrum of milestone performances off their list from Magnetic Fields Festival to Boiler Room. What started as a Facebook group back in 2012-13, has now become a north star for the more recent, upcoming collectives and labels. Though the entire crew seems unaware of it, it’s easy to say that their impeccable catalogue of work has slowly cemented Consolidate as one of the unofficial poster-boys of Indian music collectives. And it all started with Rahul Giri. But I guess each one of them deserves a proper introduction. So, cue the power ranger-esque ensemble montage and sit back!
Rahul Giri is “The Bossman”. And that title has been bestowed by subsequent members, accompanied by utmost admiration and love. Giri, who goes by the name of ‘RHL’, has garnered a lot of recognition over the years. Partly due to his solo endeavours and largely due to his being one half of the electronic duo, Sulk Station–one of India’s very first and very few answers to trip hop. Originally from Kathmandu, Giri remembers quenching his (pre-hipster) hipster thirst as a young Nepali by going after the most dusted “CDs”(whatever those are). Radiohead’s ‘Amnesiac’ played a rather significant role in his foray into electronic music. A bit weary of the Bombay and Delhi scenes, Giri is proud of the fact that Consolidate’s work had become an unconscious response to those cities and has given Bangalore a sense of musical identity. Ironically, Giri hasn’t released a complete project under Consolidate Records but is comfortably sitting on 10 years worth of music. Most of his time was dedicated to mastering the projects and setting a benchmark, which clearly took a toll since he’s still recovering from the endless releases and a rather exhausting 2017.
Next up is Aniruddh Menon, the acclaimed beat-maker behind the ‘Lovesongs’ project. Aniruddh was one of the early inductees to collective and has been a great right-hand to Giri in terms of curating and helping the artists. “We are a bit selective about the people we let in. And it’s not because we have ‘great taste’ or something, it’s just that we lack the manpower right now,” says Aniruddh, who plans to learn mastering so as to take the load off Giri.
Shoumik Biswas, aka Disco Puppet, has easily skyrocketed into being one of the most innovative producers in the country. His release ‘Princess This’ became one of the most engaging projects of last year and showed a great deal of depth and personality. His soft-spoken nature is a huge contrast to his in-your-face musical aesthetics and ‘turnt’ stage persona.
Aerate Sound is an audio-visual group comprising of Joe Panicker behind the beats and Naquash on the visuals. The Kerala duo are college friends who have a traditional music (drumming) and a heavy art (sculpting) background respectively. After sitting in a dark room with projectors and experimenting with light and sound, they’ve let their immersive experience take them places via their release, ‘Only For External’. Joe expresses his gratefulness in being a part of Consolidate by saying, “It’s a high energy creative environment man. Consolidate is a resource pool and everyone is good at something.” While Naqaush calls Consolidate an “artist movement”.
The rest of the roster comprises of Rishabh Iyer aka Worms’ Cottage with two exquisite EPs under his belt. Rishabh also has an rap alter-ego named ‘Ustad Kitty’. Rishabh explains the importance of Consolidate in his journey by saying, “I’ve just become less shy I think. I’ve [also] just started taking Rahul’s opinion in particular a lot more seriously when it comes to compiling work, cause in retrospect I always realized that his suggestions make much more sense than my often impulsive decisions. “
Suren Makkar, aka Blindnight, was the last Consolidate release with the moody ‘Where Is The Fire?’ EP. He’s also responsible for the Consolidate logo which I mistook for some obscure text for the longest time. He clears my doubts by saying, “It’s keyboard keys joined with an Elephant trunk on the right end.” “But we are open to conspiracy theories”, adds Shoumik and smiles.
Sandhya Visvanathan, aka Pardafash, joins Rahul in the ‘No-Releases-Yet’ club. However, her history as a vocalist in the Bangalore outfit, ‘Machli’, does have a lot of people, myself included, eager for her next step. She was also responsible for the artwork behind Wild City’s Selector Pro: Women in Electronic Music. As the sole female member of Consolidate, she reflects on the inclusion of women in the music industry by saying, “The music scene is really not inclusive of women. I’m super privileged to have supportive men around me who encourage my pursuits. However, that being said, I’d love to see not only more women, but even trans producers within Consolidate and the Bangalore music scene.”
Even though Consolidate has always been hyper synonymous with Bangalore, the irony is not a single one of them is originally from here. Most of them have made this city their home due to work or education. Thus, Nepali producer Rajan Shrestha doesn’t seem like a wild card. Being a fan of Sulk Station, Rajan connected with Rahul on social media. One thing led to another and the next thing you know, Consolidate released Phatcowlee’s (Rajan’s stage name) ‘Cinema’ EP. This not only proved to be a fruitful collaboration for Consolidate, but an extension of their family as Rajan explains, “I haven’t personally met any one of them, except for Rahul. But have had long email threads with Aniruddh during the pre-release of ‘Cinema’, a short one with Rishabh because he wanted to know more about Kathmandu, share common love for a particular CASIO keyboard with Shoumik, little instagram chats with Suren and lots of hearts/likes trading over social media with Joe and Naquash. I respect them for what they’re creating, musically and culturally.”
Consolidate wants nothing but to be themselves. They claim the organic nature of the entire process has worked in their favour and they want to keep it that way. They don’t have to piggyback ride and cover up the disabilities, but rather, they’d prefer to motivate each other. They’re hopeful of more transparency in the scene and a clearer distinction between entertainers and performers. They’re also hopeful that the scene goes beyond just “looking cool” and social media doesn’t suck the life out of them. Rahul has his eyes set on making something bigger out of the label beyond just releasing music. The latter half of 2018 will see more Consolidate releases but they don’t want to force it. _RHL and Pardafash will be putting something out along with a Disco Puppet album and a music video. Aerate Sound are looking to experiment more by maybe releasing a completely visual project along with performances in a 3D realm.
While some of them are in different countries, some of them also happened to live on the same street. The last time they were this adjacent to each other was on the 2016’s ‘FRNDS & FMLY’ compilation, their first release. It’s safe, then, to say that Consolidate have come a long way and have an incredible journey ahead of them.
Consolidate just released Disco Puppet’s new video and it really is a treat, check it out here.
Feature image credit: Rahul Giri photographed by Naman Saraiya.
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