Boomkat Product Review:
Kerala-based multi-instrumentalist, engineer, curator and visual artist Seljuk Rustum lays his practice bare on "Cardboard Castles", a collaborative record that winds between ideas and instruments, reflecting on the musical limitations of freedom. Playful, evocative music.
Recorded between 2016 and 2021 in Rustum's Kochi studio, the album's tracks are mostly improvised, single-take recordings that capture the energy between Rustum and his collaborators. Musicians would roll through the studio, and Rustum would invite them to improvise with him and share their ideas - instruments would rotate and styles would be as ephemeral as emotions. Rustum's background is in painting, and he's the founder and creative director of Forplay Society, a performance space in Kochi. A self-taught musician, he plays synth, saxophone, guitar, and percussion, and is a member of various bands and part of a wide-ranging collective of artists. He's worked throughout India, and has collaborated with artists as varied as Senyawa, Eiko Ishibashi, Otomo Yoshihide, and Pisitakun, and all this experience is channeled into the sounds on "Cardboard Castles".
The warmth of Rustum's process is immediately evident on 'Body Of A Dolphin, Breasts Of A Cloud', a delicate track that features Rustum's delicate folksy acoustic guitar playing over cinematic swoops from the Cochin String Orchestra. On 'Desi Bunny', he takes recordings from the Alan Lomax Archive that document Kerala's Malayam language and layers percussion and synthesizer elements, and on 'Sometimes I Sink A Thousand Centuries', Rustum duets on piano with violinist Sekhar Sudhir, adding his evocative voice as an additional texture. The title track is particularly impressive, an experimental jam that combines glitchy electronics with playful piano melodies and deep bass. There's no stone left unturned here, and Rustum's evident joy permeates every note.