It has been a roller-coaster ride for Rakat Zami and his solo atmospheric – Embers in Snow. Jumping from the plans of an album, to cancellation and finally, a Foresight to Resonance Internal* – the EP is out and getting good traction all around the globe. While I’m assuming most of the readers are well-acquainted to Foresight, I’m still going to hope this review reaches a rather potential audience pool for the EP [No, that usually does not happen. Okay that does not happen at all].
Foresight starts off with Locked Souls, moves on to Safira, The Gathering, Fall and it ends with Bonfire. Given Bonfire was released previously; I am going keep its review short and allow its inclusion while I discuss the flow of the whole musical piece. I am going to allow my listening experiences to indulge with an insight I gained from the producer/artist himself and try to cover aspects of songwriting, arrangements, lyric, musicality and the flow of the EP. Here we go.
Rakat’s atmospheric influences flow into this EP quite well. The amalgamation of it all with acoustic sound, even though unorthodox at some points, sounds soothing to the ears. A proper example is the first track – Locked Souls. From a personal point of view, the use of a Rhode Piano – a synth layer – behind the few ukulele chords turned out to be quite an attraction for the ears. Unorthodox as it is, because it is either seldom-used or almost non-existent, the synth filled out all the blank spaces successfully [and Taylor Swift too, subtly]. Locked Souls displays Rakat’s originality in songwriting and his ideas of propagating thematic content while diverting away from his usual way of expressing music, which deserves a pat on the back. As an ending note for this, I consider Locked Souls to be the weakest in the EP because the vocals lack the feel the lyric deserves. However simple, sounds rushed to my ears [I am sure to be contested here]. Moreover, being the opening track of the EP, this provided a doubt that lurks in the dark and asks me to pause the EP and go listen to Bombay Bicycle Club.
Locked Souls is followed by Safira – arguably the best song of the lot. Safira is almost 2 years in the making, and the version put up on the EP is the best by miles. The track has ample amount of lyrical ambiguity for listeners to bring out their own interpretations of the track and enjoy score-like music that Embers in Snow presents. The vocal harmony during the chorus adds the required substance for the lyric to strike a nerve. This is one of those great compositions that you fall in love with instantly, only to realize the real deal starts after the lyric is actually over. The outro composition of a grand piano, coupled with guitar notes and baritones adds depth to the melody, but also makes the track stand out – not only on the EP but holistically as well. This track testifies the artists’ diverse influences which might include Steven Wilson, and can easily stretch till Damien Rice and his use of cello on parts of the album O. This track exhibits a major chunk of Rakat’s usual way of songwriting and has equal chances of standing the test of time, along with The Gathering.
The Gathering is the third track of the EP, following Safira – a song that sets a strong tone for the EP which Locked Souls failed to do. The Gathering reveals its nostalgic nature the moment it hits the second verse. Till then, the track, with its multi-layered guitar parts, prepares you for a teary-eyed journey very well. Commendable is Rakat’s use of different layers for both the guitars and the vocals that creates an uncanny harmony which sounds laid back, and in simple terms- nice. As a listener, the track sent me to the memory lanes and before I knew it, I was almost in Crimea [Do you get it? Haha]. This track starts Tilok Adnan’s involvement with the EP. So, if you are listening to the EP and still going strong, prepare yourself to be blown away to a distant place. The Gathering is a feels train that you embark on; given the lyrical theme and the precise nature of the mind-boggling lyric, this track is an example of Tilok’s uniqueness in writing and his concreteness to the theme. The song pays homage to Rakat and Tilok’s old musical ventures with the lines from an unreleased Undeity Grounds song in the end which Tilok sung out with Rakat. Given the nature of this one, this track had some responsibility to spread the feel around and it did justice to the lyric. I consider this my favorite because of the outro. That’s a surprise I will not describe.
Specialty of the fourth track, Fall, is the sweet blend of different guitar layers and the stereo mix. A song about failures and the anticipation of a pickup – brilliant portrayal of human life, conditioning and our habit of adjusting to failures by learning from mistakes and moving on with the expectation of doing something great in life. The track sounds personal; my two cents says, the absence of a Rakat-like complex structure in the track adds more substance to the lyric and strikes that extra chord better – being monotonous is a good thing, sometimes. Tilok’s attempt to bring in the Justin Vernon influences paid off well, except a few places. On a whole, this track should be able to appeal to anyone.
The EP ends with a previously released single, Bonfire, which ushered Embers in Snow and Tilok Adnan for collaborating with EIS into massive fame. Given the nature, I will keep the review very short. The lyrical theme is somewhat a cliché but brilliantly portrayed. This track pays homage to the Bon Iver influences these two individuals hold dear to themselves. The EP’s mix sounds hollower and adds greater depth the song can make you fall. Some might argue, but Bonfire [or Fall, I prefer Fall] could have been a better opener for the EP.
While a lot of musicians deliberately do not care about song ordering, but I like to consider this element to be of paramount importance. Given the idea of musical pieces, like this one, is to narrate a story [everything narrates a story], establishing a flow is of utter importance. Hence, the deviation of emotions that exists in the EP fails on my radar to establish the required flow to narrate a story. Of course, there is one, if one listens carefully and connect the dots. However, it would have been evident only if it were put into another order. While Locked Souls hit 500+ listens on Soundcloud as I write this, I will still hold true to my words and call out to Fall as a better opener, sending us down to The Gathering, Bonfire, Locked Souls and ending it with Safira – the life cycle of events, the clichéd song order, works better in my opinion. But reviews are like grain of salts, right? Regardless, this EP is going places!
Foresight surely paves a strong way for Embers in Snow as it runs up to Resonance Internal*. The question of an atmospheric record versus another acoustic homage record for the full-length is still a question unanswered and I hope the artist will do his part to let us know.
If you did not listen to it already, here you go, you really should:
*Resonance Internal is the name of Embers in Snow’s debut full-length album