EP Review: The Surrealist – Naked Awareness

The Surrealist - Naked Awareness

You may not have heard of Roopam Garg yet, but in a few years the guitarist is likely to be listed in a long line of virtuosos. While Garg started to gain a name for himself during his time in Singapore, he’s moved to Boston where he currently attends prestigious Berklee College of Music. His project is called The Surrealist, which he started with drummer, and also a Berklee student John Marc Degaard. The duo has recently released a debut single “Self Spiral,” and are about to release their debut EP titled Naked Awareness, which only briefly delves into metal and instead dabbles in everything from progressive rock to jazz  and even a little electronica.

That description might sound a little manic, but the stylistic changes heard on Naked Awareness usually become secondary to the amazing musicianship that is displayed by Garg, who signs composition, mix and recording. Using both 7 and 8-string guitars, Garg creates a variety of soundscapes and textures with his instruments. From the opening seconds of the first track “Canvas Sky,” which features a ver vivacious beat, you can tell that Garg is slightly enamored with the world of experimental music. He wisely never lets that element overtake what is obviously the main showcase: his guitar wizardry. That opening number is as grand as it gets, with a series of amazing sweeps, chugging rhythms and atmospheric passages. Let’s just say there is never a dull moment.

The Surrealist

As signalled, there are certain jazz-like moments within the EP, but Garg loves to mish mesh the usual format with something more modern and adventurous. While the one-a-half-minute long “Become Whales” remains fairly traditional and sedate, “Flowering of Consciousness” takes you on a pretty wild journey with rich jazz chords, beats, and cyclical scales. The latter track also features massive walls of sound in certain sections, then in the next second will strip down things to almost one or two instruments. Even in the quietest moments, you can sense that the picking technique must be insanely difficult.

The Surrealist certainly don’t forget metal in the songs, although Naked Awareness couldn’t really be described as a metal release the genre is present in traces. Unusual rhythmic choices are scattered throughout the record, and those pop up more often than not thanks to beats that are laid down against the guitar tracking.

Naked Awareness is extremely hard to categorize, but that’s to The Surrealist’s credit. You’ll find elements of progressive, metal, jazz, and even ambient/new age on the debut EP often times all in the course of one song. That may mean an exhausting listen for some, but for all of the guitar enthusiasts out there, you’ll be picking your jaw off of the ground.

Pre-order Naked Awareness from Bandcamp, and follow The Surrealist on Facebook. Watch a video for “Self Spiral” below.