Review: Shoeb Ahmad – Watch/Illuminate

Canberra born and bred, Shoeb Ahmad has produced an early contender for the post-rock/ambient album of the year. Armed with guitar, voice, field recordings, keyboard and a laptop, his set-up may be familiar to many but what emerges is a dreamlike world where drone and minimalism are perfectly combined.

‘Falling Fast’ is the single and scene setter for the album. Its slowly undulating melody and string samples gradually giving way to a tune that is not unlike Kraftwerk if they recorded in a forest. Yet if the first track was good, then ‘Coronation’ is a masterpiece. Here, a mesmeric tapestry of chiming guitar, clipped beats and ambient noise is given further flight by female sighs and Ahmad’s hushed vocals. The track contains a pastoral beauty and reassuring calm which ranks alongside Hood at their most melancholic and poignant.

Far from being front-loaded, Ahmad is superbly consistent for the album’s hour-long length. ‘Watch/Illuminate’ includes explorations in to ‘Laughing Stock’-era Talk Talk (‘Robertson Quay’, ‘When We Were Sirens’), Boards Of Canada mystery (‘The Orchids’) and pretty Durutti Column-like patterns for an exquisite ‘Appleseed Snow’. Finally, ‘The Sleeper’ provides a wistful send-off with Ahmad whispering “Guess I was dreaming” as the song disappears into vapour trails of sonic beauty.

Ahmad’s distant murmurings and the insistent throb of the production ensure there is a hazy, early morning vibe throughout the record; making this a perfect record to listen to for those times when it’s 6am and too hot to sleep. Simply put, there will be few records as deeply atmospheric as ‘Watch/Illuminate’ this year.

Web Sites:
Shoeb Ahmad Blog
Shoeb Ahmad MySpace

Further Listening:
Talk Talk, Hood, July Skies, Epic45

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