When Islamabad-based post-rock artist Hasan Abbas decided on a rebrand, he chose the Soan river that cuts through Punjab as a representation of his music. It makes sense – his previous work has often had an aspect of ebb and flow to it, especially the wah-wah effects that pop up in almost every Streams of Soan track. His first EP after this renaming is not a musical overhaul for Abbas, but rather a attempt to discover exactly what his music is and can be.
The EP is at its strongest when Abbas does what he does best: construct elegant, meandering and beautiful soundscapes. ‘Not All Who Wander Are Lost’ is the standout, primarily because Streams opens up to the tabla, which he moulds effortlessly into post-rock. Who knew a tabla would work so well? It shows off Abbas’ ear for composition and structure – there’s a build to a climax that feels earned and satisfying. ‘So We Beat On, Boats Against the Current’, too, has an acoustic honesty and intimacy to it, which, along with the white noise that washes over occasionally, is like you’re being serenaded on a beach somewhere. The ending climax feels a little rote to me, as if Streams of Soan feels the need to adhere to the genre’s need for an epic moment, but otherwise they’re both solid and emotional.
Of course, the tracks that stick out here are the two tributes and spoken word closer ‘Khamoshi’. It’s obvious that Abbas has a deep love and respect for both Professor Abdus Salam and Muhammad Ali (it is great to see Abdus Salam get some love), but these tracks are the album’s most confusing inclusions. They teeter on the edge of soundtrack, preferring to melt into the background and allow the narration to take the spotlight. As soundtrack, it works beautifully. As additions to an EP, it’s uncertain where they fit in, and seem more like inspirational vignettes than fully fledged tracks. Which is a shame because the final minute or so of ‘Professor Abdus Salam Ke Naam’, when the narration ends and Abbas has some room to stretch, is absolutely gorgeous. It blossoms.
‘Khamoshi’, too, the spoken word closing track, tells the story of Abbas’ personal introversion and reluctance at social interaction, but listening to a Streams of Soan song for even a minute would tell you this anyway. ‘Boats against the Current’, for instance, is plenty of evidence at Abbas’ emotional attitude, and even though ‘Khamoshi’ is tender and honest, there’s the lasting impression that you know this information already.
When I spoke to Abbas recently, about the album and his renaming, he said he felt uncomfortable about releasing music as himself, and preferred to create under another name. The closer ‘Khamoshi’ is such an interesting addition in this context. It’s a spoken word about Abbas himself, but spoken by another. And it’s indicative of Abbas as an artist, perhaps unsure of the significance of his own story and journey.
But when listening to a Streams of Soan album, we’re not interested in the life of Abdus Salam or Muhammad Ali, but in Abbas’ story, and his music. It’s the reason that ‘Not All Who Wander’ and ‘The Grief that Does Not Speak’ are so effective. So although this is a tentative sometimes uncertain release, it’s also an exploratory one, where Abbas is in the process of finding his sound. He’s not lost, just wandering.
‘Nothing is Lost Yet’ is a Patari exclusive release. You can listen to it here.