(The cover art for Abhi The Nomad’s new album “Marbled” – courtesy of His Bandcamp page.)
Abhi The Nomad is an Indian indie rapper who uses his music to grapple with mid-mid-life crises, depression, hollow parts of the culture and a lot of topics that can land pretty poorly without the right touch. Abhi has the right touch and his new album “Marbled” had me charmed.
“Marbled” charmed me because it shoots from the heart and feels well-conceived. “Marbled” takes a sentimental approach to rap that works because of how well thought out and solid it is. Abhi The Nomad nails a nice mixture of fun and pensive across the album and cultivates a style that works well with the lyrics and mood behind his music. There are times where “Marbled” is too on the nose with its dramatic sadness and thoughtful young man vibes but there are many more times where “Marbled” is funky, fun, and full of feeling.
“Marbled” roughly follows Abhi as he develops as a person – – as he says in a song-by-song breakdown on Consequence of Sound. The format works pretty well for Abhi because it showcases his interesting life spent in many different places (hence, Abhi The Nomad) accumulating different experiences. It also gives “Marbled” a very natural way to link songs together so that the album plays well beginning to end.
Abhi has some solid formats and formulas for individual songs, too. He uses short and choppy loops that hit right on the beat and make a lot of his songs feel funky and fun. The dancy beats don’t take away from heady, sad lyrics either. They give a manic energy to the lyrics that make them all the more believable because depression and sentimentality have a manic side to them. You can hear Passion Pit or Chance The Rapper take the same approach and hear it work for them too.
He also puts a wide array of sounds and styles into the album that keeps things pretty fresh. On “Marbled” you’ll hear a lot of acoustic guitars, a lot of classic trap rattles, vocals with an r&b or gospel style, violin, and more. It’s subtle but sonically “Marbled” is a playground of rich sounds given in small dosages. Going through and counting all the elements and tricks Abhi takes from rap, indie-pop, dance, and even hard rock would take you some time.
The production and composition tie all of that noise together in ways where it works. Abhi often starts a track with a one or two instrument interlude leading into a verse that sets the song that gives a pretty quick sense of setting and theme. From there he’ll pile on instrumental and backup vocal layers until the song hits a groove in the middle.
What I appreciate is that once Abhi’s got into a groove where he could pull off and keep it steady, he adds in more or he changes the rhythm. To me, that addition and change make his style interesting where it could otherwise feel dull – like a lot of other sensitive, lo-fi hip-hop acts. It’s not a world-shaking style but it is a good one that makes music sound better.
You can find examples of Abhi’s steady and building approach to songwriting in most of the tracks on “Marbled.” In the title track, Abhi builds around vocal distortions and has two smooth jazz breakdowns, the latter which cleanly mixes in a very nice trap drum rattle. “Mindset” starts out super sparse, going from a snap, a shout, and some synthetic sounds to ethereal humming, violins, layered vocals, trap drum rattles, a separate drum line, a nice rhythm guitar section, and more. There’s a surprising amount of meat to “Marbled.”
I also like the features Abhi The Nomad puts into the album. Abhi The Nomad shows his indie-cred and throws a lot of parts out to talented rappers I hadn’t heard of. The features fit easily into the track and at least marginally add something to it. “Planes” is the indie crew track with four features in total. The composition, production, and instrumentation still sounds solid and gives everybody good beats to come in on. The featured rappers unite on the topic of time and money and the struggle to make it and they tag in and out pretty well.
Some moments on the album strike me as overdone but there were more times where I felt what the lyrics wanted me to feel. I felt the fear and insecurity that the lyrics asked me to feel. It might be that it’s easy for me to relate, being a young man with artistic goals, strong ties to his grandfather (see “So Long”), and family money troubles but I think it’s more from Abhi The Nomad’s thoughtfulness that gets me to relate.
If there’s anything to highlight about this album, it’s the thoughtfulness behind it. It feels like Abhi The Nomad seriously considered every sound, every verse, and every piece each track needed to work. That sounds like something every artist would do but that sense of thoughtfulness doesn’t resonate from plenty of albums. I enjoyed how thoughtful “Marbled” felt, how much it seemed like a labor of love.