Every now and then an album just comes out of nowhere and tattoos itself on your psyche. This is never particularly easy to explain, especially if you’re not a tattoo-type person, but impressions this deep aren’t the kind you feel much like hiding either. So, you just walk around unashamedly showing off your strange new ink to anyone you can get to look. Such was the case with the recently released album “Raison D’être” by one-man atmospheric Metal project, Raat.
With a home base of Delhi, India, that one man, Sushant Rawat (S.R.), creates some of the most hauntingly beautiful soundscapes you’re likely to hear. Present in Raat’s musical wellspring is everything from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and My Bloody Valentine, to Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room. Indeed, “Raison D’être” is the type of record that nearly bleeds with both complex symmetrical and graceful yet unornamented poetry.
I was able to get a listen to an advanced copy of the album, and it hasn’t drifted far from my mind since. Officially released on December 12th 2020 by Flowing Downward, “Raison D’être” hasn’t yet quite gotten the face time with the public it deserves. Although, I suspect Raat will make a rather large impact throughout the coming year.
Sushant Rawat was kind enough to make room for a whole bunch of my questions. As warm-hearted a man as he is talented, S.R. will make you feel right at home as he discusses his philosophies and creative process. So, why don’t you hit play on “Raison D’être” and prepare yourselves for an excellent discussion.
VUK: Hey there! Thanks so much for taking some time to chat with me about your beautiful new album (“Raison D’être”). This is your second LP (along with 5 EP’s) in just two years, which is quite substantial output. Is there an isolation to being a one-man project that’s beneficial? Has the pandemic aided in your creative process?
S.R. Hello Joel! It’s a pleasure to speak with you. I would say it is beneficial in the sense that more music gets written in less time. It could also be correctly surmised that there is undoubtedly going to be a singular vision of sounds and ideas touched upon during the creation of music. As an individualistic project, that fact could be beneficial to some extent in terms of the whole process becoming streamlined over time, while seeming more uniquely focussed.
It could be beneficial also in terms of the countless learning lessons one learns along the way with regards to song writing and the production side of things as well. And I’d like to think that all of that combines to pave a path for musical growth. It’s not any different from learning an instrument, for instance. A similar feeling of being a student of a subject one adores. With time, I think one can put something together whenever they want, with ease, but it’s only the songs that you sit down and record all the way through, only those are ultimately the ones that you can publish. Many just get made while practicing only to have occurred once and in isolation.
VUK: That makes a lot of sense. As an individual, you can learn from the music that’s lost to time. Obviously, that’s not something a group can share. Sort of a romantic way of looking at things. Poetic.
There is a beautiful poem on your Bandcamp profile:
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar”.
That is wonderful! Your work seems to mimic this poetry. Can you expand on these words?
S.R. Thanks! These are the starting lines from “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, a poem by (Lord) George Gordon Byron. I wouldn’t want to diminish the beauty of that prose by mistakenly undermining it’s sheer brilliance with my ordinary words. And it also happens to be worded in quite a straightforward manner for anyone to comprehend it’s entire, wholesome truth. This is the first passage from that poem:
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”
VUK: That’s fantastic! I did not recognize that as Lord Byron’s work. “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, I’ve discovered , admittedly after some brief research, is about a man who has developed some weariness within his typical life, so seeks fulfillment in travel. This idea of being in a state of discovery in perpetuity, and all of the ups and downs that go along with being an adventurous soul.
S.R. Well put. It’s an utterly fascinating work of art.
VUK: “Never Forever” begins the record this way… with this “rapture in the lonely shore” kind of feeling. I hear a great deal of My Bloody Valentine in this song. Extremely powerful sound, right off the bat. Is that a fair comparison?
S.R. I’m very glad to know you find “Never Forever” as a powerful opener, thanks very much. It does have an intro that might have felt out of place anywhere else on the album. I must also say it’s a great observation on your part, it does begin with that sort of a sound (rapture in the lonely shore). Never was the very first one to be written for the album and that’s where it stayed in the track order. The comparison you have alluded to may very well be the case but I can’t tell. I’ll be sure to check out their music soon.
VUK: “Evenstar”, which has an excellent bass line, by the way, is a much heavier effort, with moments of lucidity. Waves. Layered guitars, both clean and distorted, intricate drum patterns. Some middle astern chord progressions. I was given two quotes in the lyric sheet for this song. One by Nietzsche, and the other by Sartre. Can you expand on this?
S.R. “Evenstar” is probably my favourite song in the album. I am a huge admirer of both those authors. Their work is unparalleled, their understanding of the human predicament utterly honest and to the point. Their words sting in a highly personal manner. I decided to sing those two quotes in “Evenstar” as a means to make the song bring out the thought that was behind it. One of resilience and invigoration, a reawakening of sorts.
VUK: Thank you so much for clarifying that! Fantastic! Resilience and invigoration, almost as an extension of the Byron sentiments you spoke of earlier, add an even deeper connection between the first few songs on the album. Would you say there is a deeper concept to the album as a whole, or are these connections coincidental? Or just an evolution of your creative process, and personal exploration of deeper philosophies?
S.R. I did not write it as a conceptual album, but if a concept has presented itself as a result, then it can only be a good thing. I feel it must be both the creative process and exploration of deeper paths.
VUK: “Aurora” is a really driving tune! Just full force on those guitars, man! To me, this is where the genres mesh best, because there’s clearly a Black Metal vibe, but the delay/reverb is so saturated throughout, it’s very difficult to eliminate comparisons to some of the heavier Shoegaze bands. Stuff like Swervedriver, Ride, and Alcest, mixed with things like Wolves in the Throne Room and Winterfylleth. Spectacular sound! “Dead Hearts” has the same atmosphere, at least to my ears.
S.R. It’s extremely kind of you to mention these renowned artists in relation to my music. It must mean I’m doing something right. All I’m doing is just making what I can make, something that pours out of me naturally without an aim to sound like something or another. The one thing I’m elated about is that it’s an act of progress. It always feels like what I do today is better than what I did yesterday. That becomes clear when I’m listening back to the yet unreleased and the already released.
VUK: The title track has some interesting chord progressions, and variations on musical themes. Clearly, this is a standout moment on the album. You’re singing about “the majestic ritual of the passage of time”, and that sentiment can be found sonically all the way through Raison D’être. Did you choose this as the title for your album before or after writing the song? And is how we view the passage of time, in your mind, the most important purpose we can find as humans?
S.R. The song was written earlier. And it felt like a good one to be the title track as well. I am of the view that a purpose is formed or speculated by ourselves here and now, and eventually forgotten or followed through based on circumstance and will. With that song, I managed to write a space fiction love song or something. The same thought was behind another song called “Forelsket” that I released earlier this year. So, in that sense, at those moments, maybe love or compassion felt like an important purpose, if not the most important one. For “Raison”, I decided to write guitar riffs that played along each other in a very connected way, sprung from the same root, if you will, in order to create a sort of an illusion of an encircling, overpowering abyss around a body in free fall.
VUK: I think your music sits on a ledge somewhere between Atmospheric Black Metal and what many call Blackgaze. “Welkin” was the Raat record I started with. Still a favorite, I must say. But there’s a triumphant sound to those songs, and to a great number of your others, which immediately makes me think of bands like Deafheaven and Lantlos. What do you think of the Blackgaze genre?
S.R. Thank you. Glad to know Welkin reminds you of some of your favourite bands. I think genres, in general, provide a very narrow view for any form of music but at the same time, they are also somewhat essential as, it goes without saying, that there are scores and scores of music out there. What I do know is that I can create and complete a song only if I feel I would enjoy it as a listener. It has to be something that I can fully appreciate, ponder and be moved by, at least until I’ve released it.
VUK: As mentioned, “Raison D’être” is your second full length effort. Out, as I type right now, just today! Congrats on this release, man. How did you get involved with Flowing Downward? A fantastic label, with a number of top notch releases in 2020. You’re in good company.
S.R. Thank you very much. Andrea (Pantini) and I had talked about working together earlier in 2019, but things didn’t fall into place at the time. Then, we resumed the talk around the time this album was being prepared, and went forth with it. It’s an honour to work with them and to be among the many excellent releases they bring out.
VUK: Do you have any plans on performing your music in a live setting? If so, would you use a backing track, or a full band?
S.R. Yes, definitely. Between ‘after this pandemic and before the next catastrophe’. I see myself using both backing sound and a band if it would indeed take place.
VUK: What does the year 2021 hold for Raat?
S.R. Taking the music to further shores of catharsis and deliverance and putting out a string of releases in forms of EPs and full-length(s). This is just the beginning.
VUK: An exciting prospect, to be sure! Thanks for taking some time for us here, man. It means a lot. You’ve helped me appreciate an already enjoyable album in a much deeper way. Much appreciated.
S.R. I really appreciate your time and support. Thank you for an interesting conversation.