Rafiq Bhatia

Two winters ago, Rafiq Bhattia, an American guitarist and composer, found himself walking through the snow to Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik Iceland. Alexander Overington, his producer and musical companion, travelled across the Atlantic in search of Valgeir Sigurdsson. They were drawn to him because of his ability to expose the unknown within the known. Sigurdsson is a master at creating unique sonic worlds. He was the secret weapon behind Bjork’s Medulla and Vespertine, and he also co-produced Feist’s Metals. Sigurdsson spent a week working with Bhatia to create his unique mix of driving, glitch-infused beats and blistering improvisation. He also shared the experience of learning a new language. Bhatia performed all over New York City along with his co-conspirators Jeremy Viner, Jackson Hill, and Alex Ritz (drums). The most exciting aspect of Bhatia’s efforts are the recordings that he has been quietly perfecting for the past two-years. They will be releasing this new sound through two releases on Rest Assured: the Strata EP, and the Yes It Will LP. The Strata EP serves as a manifesto, a guide to the “new language” Sigurdsson uses. The first half of the EP features two originals (“Sunshower”), which are produced in large quantities. They are driven by nod-inducing beats and wall-of sound orchestrations. The “Statements” track features a cameo from Anti-Pop Consortium’s High Priest. He weaves through a maze made up of trap beats and processed woodwinds, strings, and guitar harmonics. Flying Lotus’ “Pickled” closes the EP. The EP closes with Flying Lotus’ “Pickled!” which uses a stacked synthesizer to recreate the original, but adds tiers and layers of processed acoustic sounds. FlyLo covers are a futile exercise for most bands. But Bhatia and his colleagues use each section of FlyLo as a starting point to explore new and exciting territory. Yes It Will is Bhatia’s debut album. It is one for the crate diggers. This album is for those who love the LP format. The whole is greater than its parts. The rich and detailed musical statements are created by the addition of layers of processing and overdubs to enhance explosive improvisations. Contrast the complex, ship-in a-bottle productions of tracks such as “Open Spaces; Open Minds”, and “Once” with rawer cuts like “Annihilator Gators,” which features instrumental explorations that closely emulate 60’s Impulse sound design and sound design. Live recordings. The album ends with six originals and a cathartic instrumental rework by Sam Cooke of his civil-rights-focused classic, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Bhatia’s musical mentors Vijay Iyer, Billy Hart and members of the experimental chamber groups ICE and JACK give outstanding performances, as well as the well-oiled machine that is Bhatia and his bandmates. This is all wrapped in a rhythmic vocabulary that unites Madlib, Aphex Twin and Elvin Jones. High Priest declares that this is the kind of joint that can exist in both jazz and beat canons. Born and raised in North Carolina, Bhatia is the first American son of East African Indian immigrants. He would spend hours in front of the radio as a child listening to the latest singles by emcees such as The Notorious B.I.G., and would wait for them to be bootlegged. Busta Rhymes. At six years old, Bhatia took up the violin and began to play it by ear. Later, he switched to guitar. Bhatia was born in the South after 9/11. He noticed a lack of people with similar looks in the arts and began to look at music as a way of representing. College was a mix of recording experiments and performance residencies. This gave rise to the vision that these records represent. The Strata EP, Yes It Will LP, are the culmination and response to all of Bhatia’s experiences. This album is a flood of ideas that will appeal to a new generation of listeners, who see a common thread between the music of John Coltrane, Flying Lotus, Tyondai Braxton and Jimi Hendrix. Bhatia’s music doesn’t rely on a single genre. It is a blend of many influences and experiences. A completely new beast.

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