SAHAJI – Future In The Sky EP

Sahaji first came to relative prominence due to a music competition staged by Yamaha, but these recordings are set to take the Japanese brothers to the next level. The three tracks that make up the very enjoyable ‘Future In The Sky’ EP draw from some classic influences; with hints of a 60s love colliding with a huge debt to the bigger players from the Britpop scene, the material comes with a hugely nostalgic bent, but the arrangements sometimes play for something much grander than an easy throwback. Working with renowned producer engineer Nick Brine – a man whose previous credits include working with The Stone Roses, Ash and Teenage Fanclub – has certainly helped create a great sound on this first UK release.

With an Oasis-like strum, the title cut instantly comes with a very 90s oriented feel. The juxtaposition of the acoustic rhythm guitar and harmonic feedback during the intro suggests something big, and then, the opening of the first verse makes good on that early promise. A full electric rhythm settles somewhere between the more melodic end of a Noel Gallagher arrangement circa ‘Definitely Maybe’ and the superior Cast debut, and a broad vocal further taps into a love of old Britpop sounds. It’s not a direct rip, however; there are moments beneath the main riff that delve a little deeper into a late 60s epicness, and the sweeping melodies from a string-like sound add a better flow, overall. Somewhere around the second chorus this “60s through a 90s filter” tune really finds its feet, but it’s via a soaring guitar solo that the number really gets to fly. That instrumental break first works clean notes at first and then descends into a bluesy fuzz, in a way that shows off more of the band’s scope with a relative ease. By the time the strong chorus hook and Gallagher-esque moods come together one final time, and with the lead guitar boosting the arrangement further, this track asserts itself with a massive confidence, creating a near flawless first impression.

With an opening crunch and heavy bluesy vibe via the lead guitar, ‘Tell Me All Your Feelings’ opts for a retro sound of a different kind. The huge sound built up retains a smidgeon of the louder end of Britpop via the rhythm guitar work, but otherwise settles for more of a solid hybrid of indie rock and retro melodic rock. There are further nods to an early 90s melodic rock sound thanks to a huge backing vocal arrangement which really sells a brilliant rock/pop chorus, and a fuzzed up lead guitar break definitely throws a bigger spotlight upon the Sahaji desire to rock just a little harder. By the time the track reaches its crashy sounding climax, things still convey more of a melodic style than before. Armed with the EP’s best hook, this number shows how retro rock need not be wholly indebted to The Black Crowes, Beatles and Stones, and is definitely the perfect entry point into the Sahaji Brothers’ world, whilst ‘I Wanna Be There’ slows everything considerably. On this final tune, acoustic strums underscore a very 70s melody, and tinkling piano melodies further build upon an old school sound. It’s the kind of tune that is in no hurry at first: the piano motif gradually builds against the strings, and a mournful vocal consistently shares a very downbeat feel. It’s a world away from the previous tracks, but once the drums kick in and a bright lead guitar fills the space, there’s still that same feeling of hugeness present. It’s obviously a vibe this duo seem to create very naturally. Despite being more about the overall arrangement than actual hooks, a few plays will uncover a song that sounds better than first impressions might suggest. In fact, it shows off a pleasingly retro number that eventually leaves the listener wondering what else the Sahaji brothers have up their collective sleeve.

Between this release, a trio of singles from Matilda Shakes and the excellent EP by The 355’s, interesting rumblings within the retro rock underground could be found at the beginning of 2024. Whilst Sahaji might not be bringing much of a new slant to the scene, their gifts for a melody and arrangement are without question, and this certainly paves the way for more enjoyable sounds ahead.

March/April 2024