Pakastani ambient-drone musician Asfandyar Khan plays exclusively in reverential, nearly sacred tones on this auspicious debut. It would be tempting to read too much into where and when this music was recorded. Pakistan certainly doesn’t show up on my radar of hot-spots for glacially paced guitar experimentation, aside from the golden-throated Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Snow Makes Things Perfect is my first introduction to Pakistani music, let alone a current of minimalism that takes it shape in “non-traditional” Pakistani music.
This is the last sentence mentioning the word “Pakistan.” With all of the interesting points regarding culture, internet and globalization that can be gleaned from an ambient-drone album from Pakistan landing in the inbox of a obscure music blog in the Western U.S., it would be useless because Asfandyar Khan creates music without any geographic anchor points. The music itself is nothing new, Khan is certainly informed by ambient guitar manglers such as Matthew Cooper, Jasper TX and Tim Hecker. There are moments, however, that even musical reference points cease to be relevant. The way Khan pours over his guitar on the plodding, labored (in the best sense) album closer “North Sea Troubadour” is pure emotional transference from musician to guitar. As the song winds down into a scattered half-light of thick, cumulous tones of static and sustained tones, Khan broods over his minimal guitar lines, strumming them with saddened resolve thus releasing them into a diminishing world, knowing that none will come back. The album is ending. Notes become cleaner and cleaner with no chance of circling back into the slowly fading drone of recycled guitar tones. Each one is played with finality.
Starting at the end and moving backwards, the percussively edited “I Must Bury My Muse” slowly stacks opposing tones into one of the few crescendos on the album. Slowly building into a climax of sorts before an all too abrupt ending, the penultimate track is the only one that can be described without using the word “wandering.” Snow Makes Things Perfect is content to walk with its head staring at the ground with little to brace itself against. Half-buried, delicately plucked guitar lines and oscillating drones underpin each track without threatening to overtake them. Album opener “Gregor Samsa is Dead, Long Live Gregor Samsa” flirts with the idea of opening up into a predictable swelling crescendo, but when things get the busiest all auxilliary sound just drops out completely, leaving an unbelivably delicate and patient picked guitar line that has sustained the entire track. Asfandyar knows how to end songs.
Snow Makes Things Perfect leaves everything the way it should be. A general sense of being just a little more somber than the mood that influenced putting on an ambient-drone album and a feeling that you really haven’t listened to anything prettier all year.