“A kind of buzzing drone,” said musician Ilyas Ahmed. “Like modal music in general, or like old renaissance music. If I have a sound in my head, it’s probably that sound. Everyone says they have a sound or a song in their head. I don’t really hear songs exactly.
“A kind of buzzing drone,” said musician Ilyas Ahmed. “Like modal music in general, or like old renaissance music. If I have a sound in my head, it’s probably that sound. Everyone says they have a sound or a song in their head. I don’t really hear songs exactly. It’s more abstracted for me.”
Recently collaborating with Grouper’s Liz Harris—the local queen of drone—Ahmed enters the forefront of Portland’s ambient scene, adding a much-needed cultural flare and authenticity to the crowd of heavy-eyed and swaying reverb enthusiasts.
This illusive artist was either born in the wrong era or at such a right time in history that it might take years for us to fully appreciate him. Ahmed is an old-time aficionado—computers disinterest him, he owns no iPod, he listens to all his music on vinyl and the musical style that slides so smoothly out of his fingers is so ancient-sounding that it haunts your deepest ancestral root.
Ahmed’s parents had little to do with his stylistic preferences, other than ensuring that his first musical influence was jazz. Born in Pakistan and quickly transported to New Jersey, Ahmed found music at the young age of 11 or 12 and particularly liked it because it was something to call his own.
“As a kid I would hear Coltrane and other jazz in the context of drone,” Ahmed said. “I used to play more improv noise kind of music while working on quiet folkier stuff on the side. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it publicly, I had a kind of hang up about it—it might have been a psychosomatic thing, but I felt so ambivalent about songs.”
Throughout all his albums, Ahmed toys with the idea of a “song song” with more traditional verse and chorus structures and perfected chords, only to continually reach the same conclusion that he likes music better without that kind of structure.
It’s not that his songs lack structure though. They are just more open-ended and magical, born in a dark and wispy womb of spacey limitlessness.
As far as his involvement with Harris goes, they find each other easy musical companions. After touring together with Xiu Xiu, they started to seriously consider creating a whole new musical phenomenon together full of haziness and Wirlitzers, running feet and endless stories.
“We’re both really comfortable with each other,” said Ahmed. “We started playing together casually—just one voice, simplistic. We lock in. We don’t want to overpower each other; we want to keep it at this hazy level.”
Regardless of their solo endeavors, which include groundbreaking work in both the musical as well as visual realms, the Ahmed-Harris duo hopes to begin recording this summer and release something next year. The whole process is easy come, easy go—light on expectations as well as instrumentation.
Thursday’s show will be featuring Ahmed and Harris as the headlining duo along with a really awesome ambient group called Valet, whose music is everything from new age electronic to rhythmically tribal all hand-tossed in a beautifully droned dressing.