Yes, Abhinav Gautam's goal for Seeing Sounds's new "Focus," is to make people focus. And it works -- the seven-song instrumental EP is sharp and persistent, rooted in New Orleans and Indian rhythms, flashing with jazz guitar and piano solos, plus plaintive saxophone wails and electronic synths. But Gautam has even loftier ambitions for his one-man musical project: "The idea was to create a soundtrack that would result in a change in people's brainwaves," he says. "It's like an energetic transfer. Recharging the batteries. Tuning people up. Rebalancing things. The way ginger cleans your palette when you're eating sushi."
Gautam, a Miami doctor who started his career as a New Orleans DJ specializing in house and techno music, has spent the last two years hunkered down in his studio overlooking the beach. He put together more than 60 songs, then arranged 13 of them into a trio of 2019 EPs named after moods and commands: "Sleep," "Calm," "Energize." "I just love creating stuff," he says.
The centerpiece of his upcoming EP, Focus, is the "Inner Light" single, which comes out May 22. The track showcases new vocal talent Sage Robbins' mesmerizing "mm-hmms" and "oh-hos"; she embodies Gautam's busy but soothing electronic experiments, leading the tracks into crescendos of sensual energy. Robbins is the wife of Tony, the famed motivational speaker who befriended Gautam through his unique medical treatments as part of his Intuitive Interventions practice. Through her personal meditation work, she became fascinated with Indian-style chanting and sent Gautam vocal tracks she recorded at the Robbins' home studio.
On Focus, due June 5, Gautam opens "Layercake" with pronounced second-line drums, and matches this rhythmic quality with his joy for experimentation, layering on guitars, sax, echoey drums and piano. "Vapour" has the feel of a bus on a country road, built on methodical jazz piano and the ssssss of a cymbal; "Twilight" is a long pop hook tied to a galloping synth bass. Gautam can make light, airy music designed to relax your entire body, as he did on "Sleep" and "Calm," and he can bring you back up, as he did on "Energize," which opens with the spoken-word line "sound goes to the very heart of our bodies" before slamming into bass and drums.
"Music is a religion in and of itself -- it's a way of communicating that transcends language," Gautam says. It's also healing, literally. Using a brainwave-monitoring headband device called the Muse 2, Gautam has tested the impact of his work on 10 volunteers: "We've had great results. It shows there's a deeper level of thoughtfulness that goes into music vs. other things."
Gautam grew up studying classical piano, then threw himself into the electronic-music underground in his hometown of New Orleans, where he threw raves and performed shows as a house-music DJ. He minored in music while earning his biochemistry degree at Louisiana State University, graduated early and moved to Europe to work on an album and a tour. But in 2005, he played his last show, opening for bossa-nova singer Bebel Gilberto at a local club. He didn't want to give up on music, but, he says, "I came back to reality, I guess."
After earning an anesthesiology degree, Gautam turned his medical gaze to his own body, analyzing the persistent tensions he had racked up as a lifelong tennis player. A friend loaned him a high-fidelity, portable ultrasound, and Gautam discovered powerful placental proteins that he calls "Mother Nature's remedy.”
"I started seeing these patterns in the tissue that had never been talked about," he says. "I experimented with myself to see if I could elicit any change of my own tissue, and it turned out I could. And that was the start of this whole crazy adventure."
The revelation led to Intuitive Interventions and a natural healing process called RELIEF®, which stands for "real-time, echo, located, interventional, epineural, fibrolysis." Through word of mouth and his business partner Christian Seale, a healthcare investor, he began to draw celebrity clients, including Robbins, retired Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz, Biohacker Dave Asprey, and Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who is so enamored with the treatment on his ailing knee that he frequently wears a cap bearing the company's website: http://i2i.md .
But Gautam couldn't get his previous career out of his head. "For as long as I can remember, music and sound has been the most important thing in my life," he says.
He came across YouTube videos by French multi-instrumentalist FKJ and noticed sound equipment he'd never seen before, like the Ableton digital-audio workstation, which he soon purchased as the foundation for Seeing Sounds. In late 2018, Gautam set up his Miami Beach studio and started playing all the instruments -- bass, guitar, saxophone, keyboards, tablas -- and constructed Seeing Sounds. The moniker refers to a condition Gautam has had since childhood, synesthesia, which crosses his senses and makes him hyper-sensitive to sound and see patterns and colors when listening to music. "Sound has fascinated me forever. It's this deeper mysterious language that resonates through the universe," he says.
He works in his studio up to 14 hours every day, building the tracks that became last year's EPs. "Calm" is heavy on traditional New Orleans jazz; "Energize" is a fusion of American and East-Asian instrumental music; and "Sleep" is self-explanatory. A night owl, Gautam composed the first two tracks of that album, "Anokha" and "Vagal Tones," to put himself to sleep. "If you ever have trouble sleeping, just put that EP on," he says. "I can almost guarantee you that it'll help you."
"I see this as a vehicle for energetic expression," Gautam continues. "I want to make the soundtrack for people's lifetimes. It's not just about making music for the club. There are all kinds of life scenarios that people are experiencing every day, and 99 percent of them can be improved by music."