‘Making the floorboards shake’: In Conversation with Slowspin
‘You used to call me on my cellphone.’ It’s about halfway through our chat with Slowspin’s Zeerak Ahmed that I wonder, how did we get onto quoting Drake lyrics? But rather than ringing hotlines, Slowspin is more interested in the quiet power of the first person in music. ‘YOU used to call ME on MY cell phone.’ Listening, and especially singing these lyrics implicates you into them, the first person becomes somewhat tyrannical – Drake’s late night phone calls become our late night phone calls, his troubles become our own.
OK so this may not be groundbreaking stuff but it’s important to mention, especially since Slowspin’s own lyrical material can be so opaque. Like we’ve written before, the reverb drench of the vocals and the odd cadence can make it difficult to decipher her words. But, once you do, the first person can become something vulnerable and quietly powerful. So when in her latest single ‘I Now Know’ she sings ‘You’re probably hurting more than I do’, there’s this same sense of quiet and humble power, contained into the first person, oscillating from artist to listener. Tyranny goes both ways I suppose.
This vulnerability and power is most obvious on stage. The night before, Ahmed played a headline set at the Lahore Music Meet festival. Slowspin is accompanied only by her shadow, projected back onto the screen behind her, covered in neon hues of purple and green. I ask her how the show went. ‘I don’t really know’, she replies ‘I can’t see anything from stage because of the projector’. Halfway through the set, there’s a shift as Slowspin plays new material: a deeper bass kicks in. Is this dance music? The Al Hamra starts to tremble a little.
On stage, Slowspin is accompanied only by her shadow, projected back onto the screen behind her, covered in neon hues of purple and green…
‘I was doing a show with Noah’s Heark and Smax at the Firehouse in Worcester, USA, where the bass speakers are much more powerful, and there you can really feel the floorboards shake’, she says. And Slowspin manages to meld together the floorboard-shaking electronic music with her intimate bedroom acoustic folk. Take her track ‘Man-ic’ from Foreversouth’s Hotcues series as an example of a mad synth being replaced by a fuzzy acoustic coda. Or the gorgeous ‘Mercury’, which is powered by a thrumming bass underneath Ahmed’s ethereal vocal. It all lends an architectural feeling to Slowspin’s music, something that can at one moment be structurally vague and the next concrete.
In the earlier days, she was helped by fellow Karachi artist NAWKSH, who gave her one very simple piece of advice: do it yourself. The initial apprehension towards the technical side of electronic music – learning DAW softwares for example – was overcome by putting the music first and foremost. The DIY attitude has given the Slowspin project complete autonomy and, after all, isn’t that what we treasure the most about bedroom producers? That something can feel so big and huge, but is simultaneously intimate and secret. It’s music as a cathedral.
So what’s next? Ahmed continues to post tracks to her SoundCloud page, which she sees as a kind of sonic sketchbook. Some of the tracks only last a few days before they’re pulled and made private – ‘that’s me ripping a page out’, she says. But the promise of new material on the way suggests that Slowspin is gearing up for something less ephemeral, something everlasting, and we can’t wait to hear it.
This conversation was not recorded, and all quotes have been written as remembered. I forgot half of it. Sorry for any mistakes/inconsistencies.
Many thanks to Yasser Puri for the footage of Slowspin at Lahore Music Meet 2017.
You can buy Slowspin’s music here. Listen to one of my favourites ‘Land’, above.
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