Koushik: Sounds for a séance

Koushik ALBUM: Out My Window LABEL: Stones Throw Records Canadian-born musician Koushik makes perfect background music for a mysticâÄôs den. With his first full album, âÄúOut My Window, âÄù the backbeat drops rapidly and the funk pours in, and a world of purple-draped parlors and smoky-voiced clairvoyants emerge. What makes Koushik unique is a laid-back composition combined with a certain fogged-out pandemonium. ItâÄôs chaos you can chill to. He revamps retro ditties and sets them to old hip-hop beats. ThatâÄôs why âÄúOut My WindowâÄù feels more like a progressive âÄô60s album than a modern day hip-hop jam, though admittedly, itâÄôs neither. This phantasmal album may seem like something of an oddity; itâÄôs not too often that so many genres and beats are mixed with such a sultry effect. Koushik GhoshâÄôs biography makes his music sound even odder. The Ontario-native went to college in Vermont, eventually becoming an environmental scientist. But he also hails from a musical family; an older brother has been producing techno for nearly two decades, and his mother is a singer of Tagore and Nazrul Indian songs with about ten albums under her belt. So the jump to producer, songwriter, singer and DJ isnâÄôt the stretch it first seems. One thing thatâÄôs certain is that his musical intuition is on full display in this album. Though the disc has its share of lengthy tunes, itâÄôs also filled with several short mood-setters. These tracks lend uplift, at least in comparison to the longer mercurial songs, which tend to fold and bend like smoke lifting from a spent flame. Serenity seems to be the goal on many tracks. Nowhere is this more evident than in the discâÄôs title song. âÄúOut My WindowâÄù is languorous but beautiful, the cochlear equivalent of a haute-couture model. Here Koushik interweaves acoustic guitar with more discordant, muted melodies. The vocals are distant but arresting, and the final result has a way of making a room feel pleasantly stretched and hazy. ThatâÄôs one of the great appeals of this album; itâÄôs trippy. The sounds are woven with a transcendent energy. Koushik doesnâÄôt show off, yet the final product is muscular. The album manages to be ballsy yet subdued. The song âÄúBright and ShiningâÄù is just that. ItâÄôs also the closest this album has to a catchy indie hit. ItâÄôs here that a psychedelic-pop influence is readily apparent. A percussive cowbell rings, trumpets blare, and the once-distant vocals come center stage to give a more personal show. This song also firmly marks a clear progression in the album. The tracks feel ordered by intensity, and even though the entire disc is mellow, each tune strengthens a cohesive narrative. ItâÄôs a subtle story, but a satisfying one. That said, all of KoushikâÄôs mellowness may make âÄúOut My WindowâÄù induce drowsiness on REM-deprived listeners. Those with ears preconditioned to in-your-face funk may have to pop in a hearing aid, or at least turn up the volume. This album impresses with its nuance and balance, not with ballsy ballads or kitschy lyrics. Koushik, most listeners will find, is a hip-hop artist who just wants to peddle peaceful dream songs.