There’s something about Karachi that churns out artists creating deeply layered, complex and esoteric electronic music. Ziyad, formerly known as Noah’s Heark and a Red Bull Music Academy alumnus is another one of these artists, taking the hustling and frenzied sounds of the city and funneling it into his latest album, Compost Regrowth.

The title itself is pretty apt for the album, implying an continual process of decomposition and regeneration. Perhaps that’s why there’s the symbol of the ouroboros on the album artwork. Ziyad is evidently interested in the the notion of the infinite.

Those themes manage to come through on the album. There are lush and long soundscapes that stretch out into the horizon. Expanse, for instance, uses a sarangi as the instrumental foundation and drenches it in reverb so it ripples, endlessly and mournfully, until the beat kicks in. It’s a beautiful track, and indicative of Ziyad’s talents as a producer.

ziyad habib noahs heark
Ziyad on the decks. Credit: Border Movement

Clouds Over Karachi, too, employs a more hectic soundscape to convey a similar sense of endlessness, like a timelapse of storm fronts rollicking over the Karachi skyline. The percussion here is more eclectic and improvised. Like his contemporaries from Karachi – artists like Smax and Rudoh – Ziyad thrives off these kind of weird, bustling beats that appear as mess but settle into a kind of order. If Karachi traffic had a sound…

But one of the main triumphs here is Behind Uu, featuring Lady Midnight. It’s one of the few tracks with vocals, but it brilliantly juggles the percussive elements, weird synths, the piano, and Lady Midnight’s unique voice. The repeated phrase here is ‘forever’, again reinforcing the main thematic drive of the album. The track culminates towards a climax, with all the sonic elements clambering over one another. It’s a pretty fascinating piece of music, especially since through the experimentalism it still manages to make you groove.

ziyad – behind uU ft. lady midnight [tape rip]

The album suffers when it becomes too experimental to the detriment of itself. This happens almost exclusively in the first half. After a beautiful and calm opener, Ziyad throws in WTF and Weight, which are such dramatic tonal shifts that they threaten to throw the album off the rails. Usually I wouldn’t be against that, but here it feels out of place. In the liner notes, the sound is described as ‘molding two disparate music approaches’, but I’d argue that Ziyad does this much more subtly and successfully in Ion and Break without needing to resort to experimental flourishes that feel more in-your-face than organic.

Thankfully the album settles into itself after this opening hiccup, stretching out its legs and looking out towards an endless horizon.

This is a soundtrack for sunsets and sunrises, for things dying and living again.

 

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Sorry for the lack of album reviews lately. Hope for this to be more regular in the future. Peace.