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Album Review: Vasudeva - Life In Cycles
by Max Freedman

Is it possible to receive a cease and desist letter from a deity? Bernardsville, NJ's dreamy, groovy post-rock four-tet Vasudeva might know the answer to this question; at the moment, the Indian god after whom this band is named hasn't taken any legal action. Vasudeva probably wouldn't do that kind of thing anyway: his name translates to "good deity", and he never told a lie in his lifetime (!!), so he seems pretty content with things.

What a good name to describe the music these dudes make, then. Vasudeva's debut Life in Cycles sounds like personal satisfaction; more specifically, it balances a glimmer of late 90s emo guitar sadness with swinging, mobile rhythms and skyward optimism. It mixes a slew of emotional states into one poignant cocktail, and its creators appear assured and confident. For example, the tight, finger-tapped guitars that begin just over thirty seconds into, "Tuxford Fall," imply both fidgety anxiety and the glee that accompanies overcoming life's greatest obstacles. Likewise, the lead riffs on, "Stop Making Yourself Miserable," feel both pained and hopeful, two extremes that cancel each other into blissful tranquility.

The gorgeous weavings of "Life in Cycles" prove possible because they're based entirely in instruments rather than the human voice. Vasudeva's music consists solely of two guitars, a bass, and percussion; no lyrics exist to provide solid meaning, no vocals amplify the emotional stakes, and no synths extend beyond the human limits of compassion and feeling. These songs feel so flexible and loose in part because they don't have to match patterns of human speech and phrasing. The lead guitar plays the role a voice normally would, accounting for how beautiful and atmospheric these jams are. Check the arpeggios that gradually become the focus of "Brickwork" as an example: grey in hue but heavenly in aura, this lead guitar line dominates the emotional spectrum of this song.

The importance of the lead guitar throughout "Life in Cycles" simply cannot be understated. To best understand the relationship between Vasudeva's guitar lines and their songs' impact, one need look no further than, "In Lieu of Youth." The short album introduction of, "Ritual," transitions seamlessly into, "Youth," a mountainous journey that's Vasudeva's most rewarding to date, both technically and emotionally. The faint melancholy driving this track stems from the same origin as the overwhelming optimism that directs the band towards the sun. It's that lead guitar line, each and every time; it's a role that's proven vital to emo and post-rock countless times before. Leave it to Vasudeva to brilliantly marry these two genres into a blend that achieves even more than its individual parts.