Ailan-e-Jang, the debut album of the band, is indicative of how alternative rock music should evolve.
Afull-length debut album is an introduction to music critics, industry insiders and potential fans. For Karakoram, a band rooted in alternative, dreamy rock, the journey has been long. They’ve dropped tracks here and there, over a period of time and played at festivals. But this is their moment. All the hype that followed each single release until the arrival of this debut has been well worth our curiosities and urgency.
Ailan-E-Jang features 9 songs on this Sherry Khattak-led band. Produced by Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, aka Xulfi, the album asks nothing of us except to be taken seriously. It’s embedded in the lyrics, musical landscape, subject matter and delivery of each song.
As bands like the pioneering Strings disband, others will take that space; Karakoram has that potential. Redefining alternative rock with a dreamier landscape, Ailan-e-Jang is ultimately about the evolution of rock music.
Earlier releases like ‘Toofaan’ and ‘Raasta’ have been mused over by both critics and listeners alike. But in addition to these songs, the rest of the tracks in the album offer just as much excitement.
Released with the music video of ‘Bekhudi’, the song opens softly and just a few seconds later develops into a larger than life electrifying track that has an anthemic vibe. It is bigger in its sonic landscape than what Karakoram scrounged up as their last release. More to the point, it is a glimpse into how the band can change its sound from dreamier-rock tunes like ‘Raasta’ to the progressive ‘Bekhudi’ and ‘Bhoolay’ that builds up to a crescendo.
What emerges upon several listening sessions is that Karakoram knows the direction they wanted and needed to take as a band, particularly on Ailan-e-Jang, their introductory album.
If ‘Toofaan’ was the fury, ‘Raasta’ offers a subliminal landscape. ‘Bekhudi’ is the anthem that every band needs in its arsenal. Neither attempting to become another EP nor any other entity for that matter, with each song Karakoram carve their name in music history as a fierce band to watch out for.
The subject matter is personal and daring. It asks grittier questions in a deeply personal manner but doesn’t necessarily offer amnesty. ‘Bekhudi’ has opening seconds that feel very EP-esque before it evolves into a song that has its own identity. It asks why do we believe in a lack of colour and why does one fall in a quagmire? But the chorus, full of much more fiercer vocals, don’t offer an epiphany as such. However, the song is layered enough that it does offer hope if you dig deeper.
‘Kal Nahi’ is in a sense an ironic song name. It is not about a dark tunnel with no way out. Au contraire, this sharp and edgier track (in terms of guitar tones and speed) is drenched in dark and light, asking one to move forward even if failure has been met with before.
‘Andhera’ has a sing-along hook. It speaks of being lost in darkness, asks of you to listen to the screams, watch the sunset and drop the arrogance within self before delving into far deeper questions. These are songs that make you think. They don’t fall over your head or offer a bubblegum to surround yourself with. It is imaginative, creative and grounded in reality.
The album is also a lesson in crisp production and excellent musicianship. The rhythm section will blow your mind if you’ve been a fan of classic, neo-progressive, alternative, punk-meets-grunge rock music at any point in time. But the list doesn’t end there. The sound is also akin to the likes of Tame Impala, The Stone Roses, Bon Iver or Death Cab for Cutie – among others. The melodic structures work beautifully and have been put together in excellent shape by the band and its veteran producer.
Ailan-e-Jang is not one genre. It is many that fall under the larger umbrella of alternative rock. If the musicianship stands out, the vocal delivery by Sherry Khattak gives it a much more expansive, emotive canvas.
Published by Rearts and available on major music platforms, Ailan-e-Jang will make you reminiscent of the days of EP but also clear up how sound has evolved over the last two decades. This is a record that is not a cross between past and the future but understands and presents what is or should be current. I can’t wait to see them live!