Secret World by Aayushi Karnik is a deeply conceptual album tackling themes of faith, nostalgia, fear, and the places we call home. As the artists describe it, the secret world of the title is the world we live in when we are alone, in our heads.
The album is an opportunity to let those emotions spill out for others to see. Alone, this is an artistic risk that I have to commend them for taking. These tracks have a mix of acoustic, classical, and alternative rock influences and ideas that tie these complex themes into cohesive songs.
Beginning with a version of Blessed Are They, the artists manage to put their spin on the classic choral gem while maintaining some of the uneasy tonal dissonance and subtle harmony that made the original piece so enchanting to listen to. There is a rawness to this version of the track, an emotion that flows from the vocals that gives us an idea of what is to come.
The second track is one of my personal favourites. Its divided expression of faith and doubt is incredibly articulate. You get a sense of the pain and anger felt by the speaker through the excellent vocal delivery and poetic lyrics. That anger is explored through lyrics like “Oh lord, it’s like talking to a wall.” I also like the discordant strings used in the song. They do a great job of showing the confusion and division of the speaker. I think this album is at its strongest when it's tackling complex themes such as faith.
Pannonica takes the album in a different direction while still exploring the concept of faith. It's a purposefully unrhythmic track that finds its feet and confidence as the song goes. According to the band, the image behind this one is “a monk dancing on a bandstand.” You get a sense of his personality through the discordance and rhythmic changes. It feels like the monk goes through periods of confidence and self-awareness, bouncing between fluid and stilted. He eventually finds his rhythm in the second half, with some excellent guitar work that interacts with the other strings brilliantly, developing a deep sonic tapestry.
Sunday Ride takes the focus away from the present and directs it toward growing up. The track has this youthful exuberance, explored in the quick and luscious violin part. I like how the rhythm balances between exciting and slightly out of control as, to me, that matches the feeling of pushing boundaries in the safety of your hometown and trying new things as a child.
Overall, Secret World does an excellent job of articulately exploring the depths of the human psyche in a poetic yet honest way. I’m particularly impressed with their depiction of faith across the whole album. It has a heartfelt and conflicting edge that feels very true to life.