Boomkat Product Review:
Ghazal revivalist, Ali Sethi, graces the storytelling electronica of Nico Jaar on a sensuous suite of weightless songs riddled with sinuous grooves .
Pakistani emigre and “out-of-place queer kid” Ali Sethi is renowned for renewing the ancient poetic form of the ghazal - improvised, melodic poems that travelled with Sufi mystics to the Arab and Persian worlds, and Indian subcontinent - for a new generation, with his song ‘Pasoori’, and its message about forbidden love, heard hundreds of millions of times since 2022. Like Nico Jaar, he is also an NYC resident, and shares a passion for improvisation with the Chilean artist, who cut his teeth as a teenager busking on the accordion on the city’s streets.
Sethi had heard Jaar’s music over the years at rooftop parties and the like in London and Lahore, and, captivated by his narrative style, he would privately produce a set of improvised Urdu riffs on loops from Jaar’s ’Telas’ album, which reached his ears via mutual acquaintance, Indian visual artist Somnath Bhatt, who did the LP’s artwork. Jaar realised it was what ‘Telas’ was missing, and hence they met to produce ‘Initha’; a narrative-driven collaboration that gently subverts classical forms for contemporary audiences.
The timelines of ancient and modern entwine in eight lustrous songs spanning dream-pop reveries on cruising (‘Nezar Se’) to slinky discoid odes to medieval courtesans and modern-day raves (‘Muddat’), thru experimental noise dirge expressing an internalised primal scream (‘Chiragh’), and an expansive ambient paean to longing revolving the polysemy of the word ‘Dard’, meaning pain or pathos, that articulates and encapsulates the shared urge of the pair’s music.