As the year draws to a close, we picked our favourite Albums of 2019.
Pakistani-American percussionist and composer Qasim Naqvi has just released his debut solo record, Teenages, through Erased Tapes. Hot on the heels of his album release, Naqvi has paired the first single ‘No Tongue’ with a video, directed by Christina Burchard and performed by dancer Matthew “ET” Gibbs.
Burchard comments on the video:
“The track “No Tongue” is minimal, cerebral, and the harmonic shifts and strange sounds that appear throughout give it an otherworldly vibe. Qasim and I talked a lot about his relationship to this album and how he felt sometimes he was dealing with another consciousness inside the machine, and the experience was more like a conversation with a sometimes unwelcome host. These conversations conjured images in my mind of aliens, artificial intelligent machines, or parasitic organisms that affect the brain. There was also something about the song that felt computational, like mathematics and geometry
I immediately thought of dancer Matthew “ET” Gibbs. I had been following him on Instagram and am a big fan. ET is a bone breaker. Bone breaking involves mostly arm contortion, an optical illusion that makes it appear he is breaking his body to create new shapes. It feels unnatural, uncanny, and beyond. He also specialises in tutting which uses hand and arm gestures to create geometric shapes in space. Matthew choreographed his own performance and often pulls from movement found in nature, like jellyfish and spiders, to inspire his moves. He also pulls from fantasy and alien-like creatures.
I found a guy in East LA who owns three old bunkers from WWII and we used one of them for the location of the music video. I love how Matthew looks in the space, like he’s in a vortex swirling the energy around his body. His muscles flexing to every nuance in Qasim’s track as if in conversation with the sound. Our Director of Cinematography Lucas Gath did an incredible job building a milky atmosphere bringing us deeper into the void.”
Here’s the video.
There’s a new album on the way from extraordinary percussionist and composer Qasim Naqvi, who first conquered our ears as one-third of longtime favourite avant-jazz band Dawn Of Midi. Entitled Teenages, the forthcoming album marks his first non-soundtrack release, following an array of compositional work for film, dance, theatre, chamber ensembles, and much more. Naqvi explains:
“My past releases like Chronology, Preamble, Fjoloy, and Film were made to accompany visual mediums. The music was always written to enhance another form. Teenages is the first album with its own motivating force. It’s a live multi movement work that I recorded for myself.”
Teenages was brought to life using an analog modular synthesizer built by himself over the course of two years. He had this to say about it:
“I’ve always been drawn to the power of un-amplified acoustic music. And for me modular synthesizers are a natural progression forward from the acoustic realm into the electric. It feels like an orchestra comprised of very unusual instruments, and their orchestration and vibrational properties lie in the patching and flow of voltages through a system. They’re also unstable and they rarely play the same thing twice in any exact way. It’s almost organic and human. It was really important for this album to capture that kind of uninterrupted behavior.
Even though this is ‘electronic music,’ I didn’t want to rely heavily on a computer with an array of plugins, loops and samples, or exhaustive editing as part of the writing process. I wanted to treat this work like a live piece of music and have the natural behaviour of the machine shine through and sound huge, like an orchestra of electrical signals.”
We’ll have to wait until May 3rd for Teenages to drop through Erased Tapes, but we can already hear a magnificent first cut from it called ‘No Tongue’. Take a listen now.
Last year, amongst many projects and collaborations, Qasim Naqvi composed Preamble, a wonderful collection of short chamber compositions performed by the Contemporary Music Ensemble of NYU, which then came out as an album. The incredible percussionist and composer, who is also one-third of longtime favourite band Dawn Of Midi, is ready to follow up that release with a new album of electronic music. Entitled Chronology, the album was composed for the Moog Model D analog synthesizer, and it saw Naqvi join forces with painter Pippo Lionni and the P! Gallery in New York. As the press release explains, “the collaboration chronicled a sharing of ideas between both artists as an asynchronous call-and-response where painting, music, and graphic notation blended through common and conflictual gestures.”. The compositions come paired with transcriptions, made using a graphic notational system designed by Naqvi himself. Here’s what he said about the project:
“I was keen on somehow mirroring Pippo’s process through sound. His paintings are made with a spare set of elements. With layers of transparency, interference, and graphic form, he is able to achieve a set of permutations with the basic ingredients of black acrylic enamel and a canvas. I was struck by his restraint and use of one color source, and the kind of visual distortion achieved through a process of slow layering. So for the music, I reacted by using an analog device instead of a computer.
When we think of a computer, we think of limitless options and an abundance of memory for recalling ideas. The Moog holds a reverse approach. It’s a tactile piece of machinery with discrete circuits, 3 voltage-controlled oscillators and knobs for controlling the contour of the oscillator. It’s monophonic, so chords or polyphonic playing is out of the question. The absence of this function required a layering of ideas in stages. Also, there’s no way of saving anything or recalling presets. Once you make a sound, that’s it. It exists in that moment unless you chronicle the settings by writing them down. It’s kind of like making a gesture with a brush. Once it strikes the canvas, you can either freeze it in time or erase it forever.”
Chronology arrives on November 4th via New Amsterdam Records and if you just can’t wait, get hold of it now exclusively through the label’s bandcamp subscription. For a taster of what’s to come, check out the album trailer below.
We know and love Qasim Naqvi primarily as one-third of the tremendous avant-jazz ensemble Dawn Of Midi. But when he’s not rocking out on the drums with his trio, the Brooklyn-based percussionist and composer is involved in a plethora of other projects. Naqvi has produced and composed music for film, dance, theatre, and chamber ensembles, amongst many other ventures.
Preamble, a collection of short chamber works written by Naqvi and performed by the Contemporary Music Ensemble of NYU, under the direction of Jonathan Haas, is coming out next month via NNA Tapes. These compositions were originally commissioned by media artist Mariam Ghani, choreographer Erin Ellen Kelly, and the St. Louis Art Museum as a score to a film installation based on China Miéville’s novel The City & the City.
Here’s what Naqvi said about combining graphic notation with traditional notational forms in Preamble:
“Some of the graphic components deal with dynamics and expression, while others deal with duration and rhythm or ranges that are unique to the particular instruments in the ensemble. This symbolic language is fused into a more conventional style of notation. The conductor can let the ensemble go about their business or at any point, assert a different set of choices into the equation. With “Preamble,” I wanted to strike a balance. I wanted the element of chance but not total chance. The performers can make certain choices for themselves, based on the watchful impulses of the conductor.”
Take a listen to the magnificent ‘Children of the Drawer PT. 1’ and check out the teaser trailer straight after. And be sure to grab Preamble when it drops on November 13th.