Pakistani-American composer Qasim Naqvi is about to drop a debut solo album on Erased Tapes. Naqvi isn’t a stranger to the label (he plays drums in Dawn of Midi), and his modular synths are living, breathing things. He’s an expert at bringing the synth out of its shell, not that it needs any encouragement. Like a raging teenager, the synth can’t be completely tamed, giving the music a spark of raw electricity, but Naqvi has the skill to reel it in from time to time, offering incentives and telling it to go to its room when it’s acting a little naughty. Naqvi manages to keep it on its leash even as said leash continues to strain and fray, the synth tugging on the music like a dog that’s just seen a squirrel scampering up a tree.
Teenages is set in a dark park, though. Although it won’t be arrested for committing antisocial behaviour offences and no stabbings have ever been reported, it goes through a six-year teenage cycle over a run of six tracks. It’s a long and painful episode of defining change, growing pains, relationship-blurs, bad decisions that turn out to be lessons and opportunities for learning, and prolonged periods of phone use, eventually developing into a unique, beatless creature. Sure, there aren’t any drums. But you can have a rhythm without a beat. And this is a rhythmic album, entering through a line of strobing synths, with their patterns, pulses, and intermittent blips replacing the thump of a nightclub beat.
Sometimes rolling off the tongue with a series of light trip-e-lets, and at other times tripping up on seemingly nothing but air and space, the young synths seem to be in their element here, roaming together as a group of friends, enjoying themselves and their nightly wanderings, cruising the streets with in-shape and steel-strong physiques to rival the mannequins in a Gap store. They’ll only become stronger as exam season ends and school closes for a mammoth eight weeks, to the tune of Alice Cooper’s eternal declaration and an inflated increase of plays on Spotify.
Like a finely-tuned muscle, the synth is resolute but flexible, and its features pale underneath a ghost-white moon. On the title track – which is a winding, sprawling eighteen minutes – notes stutter, lighting up one after another like a UFO hidden deep within thick woodland. Its light-gang comes to life and burns in sequence, but it shifts around in other, lesser-known areas, taking the music away from a popular make-out spot and into darker territory. Naqvi’s music is transcendent and translucent, taking flight with spinning-top wobbles and gravity-defying lift-offs. If you’re looking for a record of transformative synth, Teenages is for you. Just don’t tell mom.