Ajay Mathur has garnered himself a group of loyal followers over the past few years with his indie-tinged folk/rock music. This Swiss guitarist and songwriter made a name for himself with the release of his first two albums, A Matter of Time and Come, See, Conquer. Along with gaining a cult following of fans, Mathur has won songwriting competitions and a number of his songs have tracked international in online charts. His odd style may not be for everyone, but Mathur’s most recent album, 9 to 3, was released in May and is certain to make him some new fans as well as keep his current brood happy with his quirky style.
It is tough to tell from 9 to 3 if Mathur’s slightly off-kilter writing style is on purpose, especially to new listeners. His off-key voice and somewhat unstructured compositional style can be jolting to music fans who are uninitiated to his musical world. The production, unfortunately, does not do this stylistic jolt any favors, as it is not very clean and somewhat lackluster. A big bright spot, however, is Mathur’s guitar work. Tracks like Nothing Really Matters display his mastery of the instrument with alt rock style and flawless technique.
Mathur’s lyrics are meant to be tongue-in-check on most tracks, sometimes even political or satirical. His perpetually flat voice may be thus in order to intentionally play up the subject matter. In tracks like My World (SOS to the Universe) and ddAll up to Vanity, this irony is definitely made more palpable by these strange-sounding vocals. This may be the reason for his unconventional songwriting style as well.
There are, however, patches of sincerity on Ajay Mathur’s 9 to 3. The afore-mentioned Nothing Really Matters, while slightly political, also has a genuine passion to it, and Mathur thus employs more indie than tongue-in-cheek folk style in this case. Another example is Oh Angel, an Americana-style folk track which is clearly one of Mathur’s more emotional pieces.
Some tracks on Ajay Mathur’s 9 to 3 are neither ironic nor sincere and passionate, but just weird. Surfing Girl – Cyber Monday Remix is one of those tracks. It is possible that the lyrics here are meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. Mathur comes from Switzerland by way of India so it may be a comment on multiculturalism and trying to understand American culture, but the psychedelic, cybery “remix” is just strange from start to finish. This is the type of song from Ajay Mathur that audiences will either love or hate.
There is a lot going on with Ajay Mathur’s third effort, 9 to 3. It is therefore a little tough characterize this quirky songwriter. There is a multicultural as well as a multi-genre angle Mathur takes with his work that is clearly not for everyone. The way he combines styles is unconventional, to say the least, and while this may be what keeps his core fan base returning, new audiences may be difficult to come by. This core group of fans may be what Mathur is going for, however, and he certainly seems to be thriving in his own self-imposed niche. At least a talented guitarist and at most a misunderstood genius, Ajay Mathur is doing his music on his terms, and surely no one can fault him for that.
Review by Layla Klamt
Bandcamp.com: “Ajay Mathur”
Images provided courtesy of Ajay Mathur media kit.