TMPST – Serpentine
Asfandyar Khan’s portfolio is a revealing measure of his evolutionary scale as a musician. He displays a newfound directness with his electronic music project – TMPST – by using 2-step garage and ambient as anchoring points for his debut EP, Serpentine. Crafting the 4-track EP helps him delineate his own sounds and aspirations within the rubric of experimental music in Pakistan, and marks another example of his musical influences fusing together to deliver an effort that greatly expands on the promise of his ambient work.
You can feel the essence of Serpentine from the get-go: a heartrending female voice opens up the EP hauntingly as a precursor to the soul-fueled Three For. The beautifully pitched R’n’B vocal samples evince melodies that create a gossamer fantasy of 2-step, with crisp percussion and a thrumming bassline giving it room to build itself to a gleaming ascension. All the factors are there for the track to be dancefloor-minded, but its emotional resonance and semi-conscious quantity prove that it is so much more than that.
Serpentine’s brevity allows Asfandyar to concentrate on craftsmanship and put forward a discernable sound, showcasing an impressive effort on his part to construct rhythms out of claps, cowbells and synths instead of solely relying on bass. This reflects a rich aesthetic that speaks well for the EP’s overall sense of arrangement and groove-based approach. Tie Pin Vow, for instance, is dazzling in its ability to softly build itself up to an exhaled, swirly climax – warm, full synth tones sweep over its bassline to tie the entire song together. Tie Pin Vow is even a tad peculiar in ways that the rest of the tracks aren’t. It manages to feel both overexcited and calm with light beat patterns peppered all over for an added sense of sparkling airiness, an organizing principle that seems to work flawlessly for the entire track. Glowing melodies are weaved back and forth around tiny bursts of clicks and thumps that can’t rest for a second over a bed of gauzy pads.
Rooted in ambient, Asfandyar will eventually always be a musician of “place”: Serpentine is an apt demonstration of how his ambient background allows him to evoke a generous sense of space. Three For’s cohesion, for instance, manifests itself in its ability to carefully define its own lush expanse, whereas Blue Blocks reveals a place tinged with sunken loneliness, much like the caliginous, unsettling atmosphere of Burial. Its grainy melancholia marks a submerged descent into ambient, underscored by a crumbling quality spread out through woodblock percussion and weathered synths.
This theme of nostalgia runs through the EP closer Magnolia as well. Like a film soundtrack off the spools, Magnolia evokes a fuzzy disconnect through lo-fi synth textures outlining a meandering dub quality. Warm melodies and percussive flourishes make the track seem like an exercise in hip-hop crossing over into garage to pack a punch. To me, Magnolia is rife with flashbacks of times gone by, but it is not just constrained to a particular mood – it is ruminative but has momentum.
Serpentine is the result of a deliberate process to create a coherent and affecting electronic music release, and it shows. The overall effect is never jumbled, and neither does the EP ever feel like an exercise in a different genre for the heck of it. Everything is blended with deftness and sincerity, showing a snapshot of exactly how colorful and sinuous a hybrid of 2-step garage and ambient can be. By rarely settling on just one genre or sound, the EP proves that Asfandyar’s music cannot ever be just one thing: it is this openness to possibilities that is the most prominent feature of his debut electronic music release as it lets him trace – and then contribute to – the genres he is dabbling in. Asfandyar realizes that the very nature of experimentalism requires him to look beyond his surroundings and comfort zone musically, which is why his music deserves to be called “forward-thinking”.
TMPST’s new EP – Descend – has recently been released by Forever South, and can be downloaded here.
written by Zoya Rehman