When the debut album by Saieesh Are You An Alien first lit up our speakers we were all completely blown away. We should have seen it coming, we’ve been publicly declaring Saieesh as “one to watch” since he graduated a little over a year ago. But no way we could have predicted a full album of this scope and magnitude. To come out of the gates with a statement LP is a bold move for any artist, but this Perth producer delivers on it with an absolutely knockout release.
On every level this record is impressive – immaculate instrumental production, nuanced vocal delivery, thoughtful lyrics, great arrangements and a refined vocal production style that calls to mind some of the best underground pop records of the last decade – it’s clear Saieesh knows how to get in-the-zone.
The record touches on a variety of genres and eras without ever veering into pastiche or cliche. Are You An Alien is the sort of record that sounds like it was made by someone who lives and breathes music, so it wasn’t surprising to find that music is a big part of Saieesh’s life.
My grandma was a professional musician back in Sri Lanka. My parents were so supportive growing up, I received western-classical piano, tabla, South Indian classical, and guitar lessons as well as involvement in a bunch of school orchestras. (Music) has been everywhere. I don’t think I ever had a choice as to how my life would turn out. My sis is an incredible musician and visionary and has been instrumental in me being able to make my own things!
A.Y.A.A. takes in a diverse range of sounds, combining them and contorting them to create a cohesive ecosystem. We hear elements of house, hip hop, psych rock, dub and traditional south asian music – all framed through a production style that leaves nothing out of place. Saieesh’s taste for analogue warmth and glue takes equal parts inspiration from vintage Tamil cinema soundtracks as well as the more psychedelic end of The Beatles discography.
There is something about the recordings that came out of Tamil cinema until the late 80s from music producers such as Illaiyaraja and prior to that M.S. Vishvanathan. So much analog warmth. Any recording you find sounds like it’s been run through the crackliest tape machines on the planet, so as a result, I think any music that gives me a similar response is revered. I started to listen to classic rock in my early 20s, so with those elements I draw a lot from those arrangements and configurations! ‘The birds’ is a huge testament to my introduction to the Beatles around that time.
One of the first thing’s we noticed when listening to the record was an interesting approach to texture – whether it’s the slick synths being shredded against roughened up drums, or smoothed out drum machine jam contrasted against a fuzzed out synth bass, there is always something interesting happening with texture. Saieesh has a unique perspective when it comes to thinking about texture – somewhere between instinct and intent:
I love feeling like a sound is about to tear the time/space continuum apart and then hearing that cosmic comfort in a sound. As time has gone by I’ve definitely settled on those being ideas I hold in the production space. I’ve started to describe it as the brandishing of a lightsaber in the dark.
I don’t really do anything consciously. I can honestly say that none of it is overtly conscious however it is intentional. When this record was made I didn’t have the knowledge or skillset to be intentional and arrive at an idea; I had to follow what I was hearing internally and just find a way using the tools that I had! But in a post-Liveschool world, I can definitely consciously make those decisions and push forward to find that spot that I’m looking for!
Saieesh’s vocals across the record also help to set it apart from the pack. Starting from a place of improvisation, Saieesh moves quickly to nail the delivery and treats most vocals with the same chain, keeping consistency across the record.
Once I catch a melody with my voice I just sing into the mic and start spitting lyrics; there will be ideas that stick and then I write immediately and develop those until I have my first take of how it sounds. Delivery is key at this juncture. To make sure the cadence is exactly what I want. In terms of the production, double compression, and waves Doubler. That was my best friend through this record I slapped it on almost every vocal and most likely found it by accident!
Saieesh’s Are You An Alien is a huge moment for this freshly emerging artist and we won’t be surprised to see his name popping up all over the place over the next few months. The idea that this is just the beginning is an exciting prospect – not just for Saieesh and Liveschool but for music fans as well. With so much raw talent on one record, we look forward to seeing what will happen when Saieesh gets the chance to push things further.
Update: check out Saieesh’s first music video, for the single “machaan”: