Shoeb Ahmad: Blossoms
hellosQuare recordings

In what appears to be somewhat of a departure from his customary approach, hellosQuare label head Shoeb Ahmad trades in his usual guitar and computer treatments on Blossoms for a fusion of heavy minimalist drone and raga-based North Indian classical musical forms. Recorded live in January 2010, Ahmad's first release in two years finds him deploying electronic tanpura box, electronic tabla, percussion, voice, pedals, and Bengali field recordings in the service of an eight-part suite of evocative character and forceful design. There's a personal dimension to the release too, as Blossoms documents Ahmed exploring the cultural heritage of his family in musical form.

The album title is well-chosen as the music does in fact blossom, with the second part's long tones awakening slowly as they draw their first breaths before bells signal the activities of the advancing day. Tablas and sitar-like tones swim through the fifth part's hazy mix, lulling the listener into a temporary trance in the process. Everything culminates in the penultimate seventh when electronic tones and washes drench the listener for a dozen pulsating and sometimes turbulent minutes. One of the things that distinguishes the album's music most is the ease with which it straddles modern and traditional time frames; often, for example, ancient drones intone amidst the punctuation of electronic textures. Contrast emerges in the presence of both meditative and rhythm-based parts, and Ahmad has sequenced the album effectively too in alternating one-minute interludes (often field recordings) with long-form sections. Blossoms' forty-one-minute running time feels just about right as well.

September 2010