Noah’s Heark – Little Tree EP
Everything that Pakistan’s Mooshy Moo does comes with minimal fanfare – there’s no social media swarm or a constant barrage of links flying at you from a dozen different directions. All that preceded the ‘Little Tree EP’ was the artwork and lead single, ‘Blue Breathes’. Much of the label is understated, the music as well as the way the net label goes about doing things, so it’s no surprise that Noah’s Heark (Ziyad Habib) makes music that breathes itself into space and operates on just the right side of restraint – an ethos very much the label’s.
Much like Smax’s ‘Tribe’ EP , Habib plays around with a foundationally similar aesthetic approach – one of letting instruments and textures breathe rather than have them forcefully saturate the listener with all sorts of ideas. There’s a greater emphasis on organic sound on Little Tree, whether its reversed pads shrouded in field recordings, or distant chimes and bells run through a gamut of reverb and delay wizardry. There’s an incidental, and incredible, sense of movement pervasive throughout the release, though unlike say a fast moving train it’s more akin to a boat nestling on a calm lake.
A track like ‘Small Creatures Carried On Turtleback’ is an apt microcosm of Habib’s sound, with an anchored bass pad providing the depth for the song, while a melange of clicks, bells, and percussions meander around the track gracefully. It should be new-agey, tepid horseshit – instead it’s a remarkably endearing piece of music that doesn’t really ever tell you why it’s encompassing you. It’s also how ‘Blue Breathes’ starts off, with sparse mallets bouncing over each other while the background goes all glitchy. Eventually, a monstrous kick drum sears through the static with a seemingly stopped-in-its-tracks 2-step beat – a pattern that always seems like it’s going to get away from you but never does. It’s also a testament to something that’s on display throughout the album, namely Habib’s ability to shift rhythms and melodies without really turning a track on its head. Every track on the release has two, if not three substantive movements, yet they’re hardly noticeable, let alone ostentatious. It lends itself to a more coherent listening experience as a result, one which isn’t a slave to jarring song and structural changes.
One of the most interesting experiments on the release is the opener, ‘Morn’, which features Smax (Amman Mushtaq) and is also the longest track on the EP, clocking in at just under three and a half minutes. Even though both Habib and Mushtaq have very unique sounds, ‘Morn’ manages to coalesce both artists’ identities without managing to either seem like a crude collaboration or completely overpowering both artists’ individuality. From the drums that carry the same weighted kicks and distorted claps that peppered Smax’s ‘Tribe’ to Habib’s complex use of starry-eyed glockenspiels run through a vortex of effects, it’s a track that inevitably leaves one hoping for more substantial collaborations from the two in the future.
Nearly all of the releases on Mooshy Moo are short in length – whether that’s by design or just a fascinating quirk of the label and its artists – and ‘Little Tree’ is no different. It finishes as breathtakingly as it starts, with a singular vision of what the release is about and what it’s supposed to explore. Too often contemporary electronic music finds itself looking inward ostentatiously, trying that little bit too hard to make a grand statement that’ll render it distinct from the hordes of (very average) music out there, and in avoiding that is where ‘Little Tree’ and Noah’s Heark shine. This isn’t a statement, or any sort of a glamourized apotheosis of organic sound. What it is, is a wonderful release that’s peeking out from behind a tree, unsure of itself yet interested in what lies out there sonically and structurally, wanting to experiment and fiddle with this and fiddle with that. It’s honest and straightforward, doing what it wants to and in the process avoiding what’s expected of it.
written by Asfandyar Khan
artwork: by Samya Arif