Instrumental music is tricky. My attention needs to fixate on something visual, either a physical scene or a sung one. Something to house my feelings and racing thoughts. For a long while the power of a good instrumental has been lost to me. Qais Essar‘s Tavern of Ruin has broken that lull.
This album, a collection of Afghan fusion instrumentals, is as ambient as it is pointed. It somehow floats around you as you work, shielding you from rain while inspiring a storm in doors. It strictly deals in dichotomies–rock riffs follow on the tail of light bells, jarring speed-ups come after languid rests. I have never before encountered anything like this. Never. Not even in the back rooms of world handicraft stores that burned incense as a rule.
As I mentioned before, I haven’t ventured deep into the world of instrumentals. I didn’t know what to do with Essar’s collection at first. I played it, expecting something. A voice, an explanation, something definite. I never got it. His sound samplings, like the rocking chair in the first song “Flame Eterne,” pulled up so many feelings for me. And I had no where to put them. It took me a few rounds of listening before I realized that’s the point. He did create a space for me and he built a whole world in nostalgic bits and pieces. It was rain on the window, strings plucked, a rocking chair squeezing down on a wooden floor. Undefined, blurry, but present.
I think this is inherent in all fusion music. There’s a need to put it squarely in some box, under some descriptor. There’s a desire to force it into one genre. It can only inhabit one physical space, not two. But Tavern of Ruin refuses all categories. It plays with them and runs circles around them.
This album has been on loop in my apartment, blending seamlessly in with the whirr of our ceiling fan and the threat of thunderstorms. It fills the space between things. I forward it as the soundtrack for all our Western monsoons and mint tea rituals.