Album review: Qais Essar “The Ghost You Love Most”


The last place you’d probably look for Afghan-inspired instrumental folk-rock would be Phoenix, Arizona. You may not even ever really go looking for such a strange genre, but Qais Essar- who, yes, lives in the Southwest- uses an ancient Afgahni instrument called a Rabab along with a 70’s style rock backline to make a half-hour’s worth of spirited, zanny music.

All too easily, he could have thrown a cheesy set of electronica loops behind his melodies and he’d have made something contemporary and easily digestible, but unsatisfied with the simple, Qais keeps things sounding organic and nuanced, in a very jazz fusion-y way, but much more focused.

“The Culmination of a Sorrowful Sound” starts everything off, a very theatrical, swerving river of a song, barely rising above a whisper. Much of the album cascades this way, down to the album’s closer, “Untitled”, which is a peaceful, sleepy, jazzy composition.

There’s not much detail to go into about the song particulars. The album carries a feel all the way through. It’s yogic, in a way; very conscious of its own breath, and relaxed while being strong. “Journey to Qaf” exemplifies this, moving eerily slowly upwards until it bursts into a fluid jam.

The Rabab is a very Asian-sounding stringed instrument, often piercing and quite vibrated. If you’re not interested in that sound at all, you’re not gong to be invested in the foundation of The Ghost You Love Most. People who enjoy the soundscape the Middle East mastered long before any prog rock band did will enjoy the smarts behind these compositions.

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