Turnback Cave, the indie-rock collective from the city of Kolkata recently came out with their debut EP Letters to Another Life on March 11, 2022. Reminiscent of an early 2000’s emo-rock and melodic-hardcore era, the record has arranged its sonic palette in a way that tries its best to bring out that inherently raw, visceral form of angst and sentimental expression typically associated with these genres. The EP rings nostalgic in the ears of someone whose childhood was wrapped around bands like Incubus, Breaking Benjamin, RED, 2004-era Sum 41… you get the gist. It is truly refreshing to see a band experiment with this particular sound, hailing from a city that has been constantly trying to broaden its musical repertoire in recent times.
Juxtaposing more aggressive tracks with milder ones, the EP kickstarts with a schmaltzy number, “Voices/Words” which features punchy guitar riffs and basslines, power-packed drumming and confessional vocals. A heartbreak song, the track carries with it a deeply emotional undertone – one that cannot be overlooked. On the contrary, the inherent dearth of creativity in the lead guitars other than the solo leaves space for disappointment.
Carrying on with a slow, ballad-like track “Change”, the EP makes a stark shift in its sonic canvas. The song boasts dainty guitars alternating between finger-picked arpeggios and gentle rhythmic strumming, minimalistic drums and warm basslines. Concocting a sense of longing throughout its soundscape, the track croons about departure and the transience of things and people.
“Lie to Me” is an encapsulation of all the things – the angst and the agony, that the EP stands for. Singing about darker themes involving depression and addiction, the song is a desperate call for help; one that is accentuated by heavily distorted groovy guitar phrases, ebullient drumming and booming basslines.
“Nox” incorporates delicate, melancholic sonic elements in its soundscape and carries them throughout the entirety of the song. The track unravels against the backdrop of delay-oriented crisp guitars that play out in rhythmic arpeggios. Soon the bass and synth join in to add colours to the sonic portrait, accentuating its sharp yet serene features. It is soothing – mellow and saccharine in its textures.
The EP comes to an end with its titular track, which starts with a slow intro and gradually unfurls into something much more upbeat. Nonetheless, it fails to deliver that gritty, powerful impact you’d expect out of a good rock record, coming off as a tad bit repetitive in its tonal patterns. Albeit, the few seconds worth of a guitar “solo” in the beginning slightly meliorates that.
Letters to Another Life is an EP that holds the true potential to expose new listeners to a sound that they might be unfamiliar with. That being said, it significantly falls behind in the mix and post-production that stands out to be a major musical hamartia. The vocals are more often than not suppressed in quite a few songs making it hard to figure out what is being said or sung.
Keeping aside these shortcomings, Turnback Cave tried their best to execute what they had in mind, even though sometimes it might’ve fallen short of expectations. They have successfully established a sound that may not have gained much traction in the city’s music scene in the past, but with constant efforts can open up a whole new scope in the kind of music one is subjected to.