Boomkat Product Review:
Erstwhile Grouper collaborator Ilyas Ahmed drifts back to MIE Music with a shimmering new side of country folk filtered thru a blue dream-pop lense in ‘Closer To Stranger’.
The follow-up to 2016’s Dreamboat collab with Golden Retriever finds that duo’s Jonathan Sielaff contributing Bass Clarinet on two songs, while the Pakistan-born, Minnesotan Ilyas Ahmed tends to vocals, guitar and synth, in parts coming as close as we’ve ever heard him to Mark Hollis levels of intimate singer-songwriter charm.
“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.”