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Ilyas Ahmed - Closer to Stranger and Dreamboat - Dreamboat MIE 048 & MIE 038

Closer To Stranger is the new solo album by Pakistani-born dream-folk musician Ilyas Ahmed. Drawing on a wide range of influences, his songs incorporate classic singer-songwriter gestures alongside more experimental leanings. Recorded to tape in the studio by Justin Higgins in the fall of 2016 and finished in the spring of 2017, Ahmed’s instrumental palette includes: acoustic and electric 6 and 12-string guitars, Fender Rhodes, multiple keyboards, tanpura, and percussion. Closer To Stranger stands as a meditation on uneasy identity politics during times of unreason, seeking peace amidst chaos.

Jonathan Sielaff (of Thrill Jockey ambient duo Golden Retriever) cameos with guest saxophone on “Zero For Below” but otherwise the album is a solo affair, alternately feverish, tense, hazed, hypnotic, and narcotic. A slowly unfolding inward journey of late night lullabies and contemplative electric drift.


Dreamboat is the collaboration between dream-folk singer / guitarist Ilyas Ahmed and the lunar-inclined analog synthesizer/processed bass clarinet duo Golden Retriever (Matt Carlson / Jonathan Sielaff ). The collaboration between these long time friends began with a shared admiration for each others' work as well as a commonality in approach to making music, which one day begged the question, "What if our individual sound worlds intersected?". The result yielded a unifying love of exploded modal song forms, improvisation as composition (and vice versa), and a desire to interact with traditional song form . The record is a result of intense scrutiny to arrangement as well as a commitment to reckless abandon.

The opening track Aftershock introduces the trio's vocabulary with Ahmed's 12 string guitar and soft vocals floating through the billowing clouds of Carlson's synth wash with Sielaff's processed clarinet cutting through the haze like a knife. The next song Face to Face ebbs and flows like the ocean's wash against the shore, each instrument allowing each other plenty of space until the song's chorale-like outro. Side 2 opens with Mirrored Image which straddles the line between abstraction and free-form chaos, the players careful to walk the line between the two. Album closer Your Sunday Best begins as a near-chamber ensemble piece which segues into the record's most overt "pop" gestures and playing out in a wash of modal hypnosis.

Imagine Tim Buckley sitting in on the first Cluster recording session or Neil Young with the Taj Mahal Travelers as Crazy Horse covering Popol Vuh and you are almost there.

£18 for the two.