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Reviews

Ilyas Ahmed
I Am All Your Own Sonia de Jager , March 4th, 2015 12:13

After three silent years, Ilyas Ahmed returns with a new tactic on the same field. The void is now warm. Or at least warmer than before: the new sounds feel more human. The fuzzy distortion highlights the fleshy agency, rather than obscuring it. To further enhance this, as if having built up a sharper vocal opinion; the voice is brought to the foreground more than ever before. Trembling strings envelop the chants, driving the songs forward into an expanding plane of remoteness. In general, there remains a feeling of dishearteningly calm solitude; loyal to Ahmed's earlier material, but this time - perhaps due to the warmer nature of the new melodies - it extends itself as a more affable, collective solitude.

Although not strikingly different from earlier work, I Am All Your Own appears more terrestrial and less transcendental. This being a refreshing new granting-of-access to his style. Rather than approaching progressions and textures from an estranged, distanced position; Ahmed brings the chords and arrangements down to a field more common, recognisable. The song titles reflect this in a way, as they engage with themes slightly less cryptic than in previous albums. Loaded with heavy, amorphic distortion, the development of the album mimics the seemingly eternal opening of a morning eye. As each song progresses some momentum is gathered, but at a pace so subtle that it is almost imperceptible. Ilyas Ahmed's exceptional capacity of combining infinitely delicate tremors with effortless melodies into a slightly ruptured balance is confirmed in I Am All Your Own once again.

The distention and layers manifested in the sound are by no means accidental. Recorded on 12-string electric guitars, taped on a 4-track recorder and mixed to ¼ inch tape, I Am All Your Own drives the listener into heavily ornamented, shapeless trances. The guitar arrangements hover in the air like sun on the skin when it's winter, leaving the feeling of scantness; yet at the same time radiating just enough warmth to be remarkably satisfying. The rougher, more decisive vocals in Ahmed's new work also generate the effect of awakening reciprocity in the listener, inviting one to participate in the somnolent ritual. Up rather than down, this new disposition carries the songs, rather than letting them be carried away blindly. The inclusion of both 'Untitled 1' and '2' mark the gathering of traction with two breaks, worthy of inclusion; given that they offer a moment of repose, and reconsideration of the architecture of the titles previously heard.

However similar or different from what we've already heard, once again, Ilyas Ahmed brings that odd magnetic allure characteristic of his sound, and his sound only. And in that respect, I Am All Your Own could be considered a good album for listeners unfamiliar with his previous releases, as it facilitates a softer entrance into his style - provided that one is willing to be challenged by the fullness of its distortion. Hard to say anything negative about this record. It really comes down to a matter of personality, or perhaps just temporal modality. The aforementioned metaphor about sunlight does this album justice better than generic labels, or opinionated ratings do. It might unwelcomely blind the unwilling eye, it might be too subtle to satiate the everlasting need for more. But whatever its effect; it remains ethereal, elementary, unavoidable. And warm.

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