Finding the Way into Adulthood With I7HVN

I7HVN is the moniker of Ishan Gaur, an artist and composer from Bangalore, India. His latest album, Youthful, explores the transition into adulthood through an inventive blend of various sonic forms. Electronic environments fuse with understated influences from Gaur’s home country, and buoyant rhythms push this music through a emotional exploration.

Youthful is out now on Qilla Records. Grab it HERE.

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Going back, what are some of your earliest memories or experiences related to music or sound? What are some of the real formative things from when you were young that have stuck with you?

I don’t have a musical background, but my parents enjoyed listening to old classical Indian music, mostly from the 80s and 90s Bollywood era. I also loved listening to that music and was heavily influenced by the culture and richness of our own music. Years later, when I was in high school, I stumbled upon UKF and heard music from artists like Rusko, Caspa, and Coki. I was awestruck by the sounds and style of electronic music. It was something I had never heard before, and it became my first experience with that genre. 

What has always stuck with me is the culture and harmonies from older musical styles. My music always carries a certain emotion with it. I don’t believe I can create a straightforward club banger that’s only focused on the body. There will always be a sense of mindfulness in my music.

What role did music and sound play in your life growing up? Did you always want to be a musician or play music?

Surprisingly, despite my formal education as a Chemical engineer, music has always been a part of my life. Even while studying, I was constantly making music. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that I made the decision to leave formal education behind and pursue music full-time. Throughout my life, I’ve always had a connection with art in various forms. My mother, who designs clothes and engages in art and craft, had a significant influence on me from an early age. While music became my primary means of expression, I still enjoy creating visual art, storytelling, and more.

How did you first get started in creating? What were those first steps like?

I started my journey in creating music with FL Studio 8, which I obtained around early 2011. Back then, internet access in India was limited, but fortunately, I had some access to it. I relied on reading the software manual to explore its features and capabilities. Being a self-taught artist, the learning process took quite a while. I didn’t have a mentor or friends to discuss music production with, but looking back, I see it as a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to learn and explore without any external influences on my taste in music, helping me develop my own unique style.

When did the project, I7HVN, first begin?

I think I started the project I7HVN back in 2016 & during that time I was pursuing my studies. I had a few hours to give each day to music but it was always rewarding & fun. The first few tracks I released under the moniker are very different from what I make now, I think my style has evolved into a more mature image of myself. I was more around the body music & slowly now it has come to what we have today.

What is support and interest like in Bangalore (or India, more generally) for experimental electronic music and composition?  

In India, particularly in Bangalore, the support and interest in experimental electronic music and composition are still in their early stages. We have some excellent producers in the scene, such as Three Oscillators, Father, Son & Alcohol, Pale Blue Dotter, and Flux Vortex, among others. However, there are limited opportunities to showcase this kind of music. As a nation, we are moving in the right direction, but we need more curated listening sessions, audio-visual shows, and platforms that provide space for downtempo and experimental music. Currently, the audience is more accustomed to uptempo dance music, and there is relatively less appreciation for downtempo or experimental genres, which are often limited to headphone listening experiences. However, when reflecting on the past, we have come a long way in terms of venues, labels, and artists in this space. I feel grateful to be a part of this growing community.

Your album, Youthful, is just now out. Can you tell me a little about the beginnings of the album and what you were setting out to explore with it? It really has this wonderful narrative quality to it, almost like reading a story, that I feel captivated by.

Thank you for your kind words. The album Youthful is my attempt to document and express my experiences as an artist in India. It’s important to emphasize the context of India, where there is a prevailing notion that professions such as doctors, engineers, and lawyers are more acceptable than pursuing a career in the arts. The art industry in India lacks a robust financial ecosystem, resulting in fewer job opportunities. In many middle-class households, parents may hesitate to support their children in pursuing art due to the perceived risks involved.

With this album, I wanted to create a sonic landscape that reflects the journey of an individual in the art space, who attempts to capture their life experiences in a musical journal. The album blends ethereal atmospheres with glitchy, mechanical, and digital sounds. This juxtaposition represents the balance between the beauty and chaos of life. Towards the end of the album, the tracks evoke heightened emotions and a sense of rush. It signifies how the period from 2000 to 2010 was comparatively less chaotic on a personal level, before the profound impact of the internet and social media on our lives. The cover art also is a digital render of real-life objects, including clay, and sculptures, that serves as a metaphor for the evolution of a person. The turquoise and tangerine-colored sculptures represent the duality of human nature, with the turquoise figure representing logic and reason and the tangerine-colored face sculpture representing emotion and intuition.

How does Youthful invite the listener to experience the evolving landscape of growing up?

On Youthful, I invite the listener to join me on a journey through the evolving landscape of growing up. Each track serves as a vessel to capture those fleeting moments and nostalgic feelings that slip through our fingers as time passes by. As an artist, I have transformed these intangible emotions into something tangible and relatable. 

By sharing my story and experiences with honesty and vulnerability, I want to connect with listeners on a deep level. I want them to understand that every feeling, whether it be joy or sorrow, love or loneliness, is an opportunity for growth and development. Through this musical exploration, I hope to touch the spirit of others and allow us all to release our sorrows into the cosmos, finding solace and understanding in the shared experience of growing up. 

What are some of the specific techniques that you use to blend the different genres in the album?

In my journey as I7HVN, I have spent nearly two years searching for a musical space that feels like home. I draw heavy influence from genres like breaks, techno, electronica, and IDM, while also having a deep appreciation for old school hip hop, trip hop, and ambient music. Blending these diverse genres posed a significant challenge, but I eventually cracked the code.

One of the key techniques I employ is the concept of “contrast.” I believe that my tracks should be able to stand on their own even without the rhythms or drums. Stripped down, they should still evoke the feeling of a soundtrack or an electronica piece. On the other hand, when focusing solely on the rhythms, they should feel like complete tracks in their own right. By applying these guidelines, I aim to captivate listeners by creating atmospheres, utilizing pads, and incorporating field recordings to establish a sense of space, nostalgia, and humanity.

Rhythms play a central role in defining genres, so I intentionally create chaotic and contrasting rhythms that challenge the harmonies and the emotions they evoke. It’s a way of making the listener slightly uncomfortable while still keeping the music accessible and enjoyable. I hope all of this makes sense, even though it may sound a bit abstract. Heheh.

How does music – either writing music, listening, performing, whatever – help you to process your own emotions and understand your place in the world? And how do you hope your music, particularly this new album, does this for your listeners?

Being immersed in music and art is where I feel most at home. Whether it’s writing music, listening to it, or performing, it effortlessly helps me process my own emotions and find my place in the world. It brings me a sense of peace and fulfillment.

As for how I hope my music, especially this new album, impacts listeners, I have a simple answer. I want my music to serve as a catalyst for people to weave their own stories and evoke emotions within themselves. While I don’t specifically create my album with dance-friendly intentions, if it does make someone happy and moves them to dance, I would be overjoyed. Ultimately, I aim to provide a canvas for listeners to interpret and derive their own meaning from my music.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame in creating Youthful?

I think the biggest challenge was the amount of time it took to wrap up the whole album & to identify the order of tracks to weave a story. Making the tracks was an easy job but to make a track that connects with the rest of the album was a little bit of a challenge. 

What are some of your favorite sounds in the world?

That’s a very vague but interesting question. I love the sound of wind, at different altitudes & geographies, you get very textured sounds as the wind flows. Also, the blend of objects being moved with wind such as leaves rustling, and swaying of plants due to wind itself is beautiful. In general, I love natural sounds a lot more than artificial sounds.

And finally, what is in the future for you and this project?

Honestly, I’m not so sure of where I’m going to go from here but something which is already in the works is my Collective. I run an art collective called ‘Safar’ we’re currently in the re-branding phase of it & are going to start a lot of segments for it. About me? I think I’m going to take some rest from releasing music for a few months until the next one. Let Youthful digest a little bit.

Foxy Digitalis depends on our awesome readers to keep things rolling. Pledge your support today via our Patreon or subscribe to The Jewel Garden.