With his debut album, Talal Qureshi makes a case for eastern-western fusion and how it can be done in a manner that is compelling, collaborative and offers unpredictable musical shifts in order to achieve a greater design.
“There she goes/There she goes again/Racing through my brain/And I just can’t contain/This feeling that remains.”
– ‘There She Goes’ by The La’s
ou might be thinking to yourself that Talal Qureshi is just another electronic music producer at a time in music where a good many names have cropped up to the surface. But what a mistake that would be.
He has been steadfast in creating music since starting out in 2005, and when we look at his body of work and particularly shine a light at his new LP, Turbo, the scientific term singularity comes to my mind. But singularity, like Talal Qureshi’s Turbo, requires context. Turbo is not about getting lost in a super massive black hole at all, the common term associated with singularity. A black hole has different interpretations. We’re not talking about Einstein and his theory of relativity where a black hole is like a point that is so intense that nothing including gravity or light can escape it.
Singularity, when described in terms of the future, means: “The term is used to describe the hypothetical point at which technology reaches a superhuman level of intelligence and capability.”
Only in this particular scientific context can we use the term singularity to contextualize Turbo. In other words, it is one way, dear reader, to describe Talal Qureshi. It is the “intelligence and capability” that applies to him as an artist and particularly when one listens to Turbo. We know that a thorough understanding of how collaborations should be is what makes Turbo so special. It is not sluggish and it is not your typical record.
Using his experience of working with several artistes over the years, playing producer to other artiste’s work, as well as performing has given him an understanding of music, which he has applied to Turbo. In doing so, he has released a full-length record that will most certainly stir some emotions in each of us, as listeners.
By now, we know what Turbo isn’t. A remix album dancing to the tune of what sells or a record made to appeal to a club environment. It is not ominous or unnerving either.
What is Turbo?
“Had to have high, high hopes for a living/ Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing/ Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision/ Always had high, high hopes.” – ‘High Hopes’ by Panic at the Disco
At a moment in music where many artists drop singles and EPs to find greater success, any artist who has the willpower to release an album, first and foremost, must be applauded. Just go through Spotify and you will realize that artists tend to release singles or EPs now with some made up of just three songs. Has Talal Qureshi played the EP game? Yes, and with flair.
Is there anything wrong with releasing an EP? No, because our way of listening to music has changed. We might be doing three things at the same time while the music plays as a soundtrack to our activities.
But Turbo is a cognizant effort to go from being a small city, or a village to being a maximum city. Does it mean it is an urban joke, a catastrophe?
No, it is a maximum city that is vital and one that carries a civilization where the east meets the west with equal respect and openness.
Turbo is all this and more and you can hear it in the sonic landscape of the record where a variety of voices and songs can be heard without standing on shifting sands. The production sounds complicated and makes sure that there is not one track where any part falls apart.
It is palpable from the opening called ‘Intro’ where the vocals keep you guessing and the gentle guitars lead to a richness covered in layers of beat. You could listen to this song in so many situations that it is surprising when you hear the full song. And that’s the one thing. You have to listen to each song in its entirety.
Turbo has been described as a blend of eastern and western in a manner that is transcendent and is beyond cultural and musical divides.
If ‘Intro’ made you pay attention, ‘Aya – Honey Version’ featuring Mitika Kanwar is a complete change of the soundscape. There is a mellowness to it while the beautiful voice within this textured song is singing and asking about not being remembered. The lyrical content is at its best when you’re trying to decipher it because (a) it is decipherable and (b) it is not what you thought it was on first listen. It’s also a song that makes you wonder if there is a bubblegum lens through which it has gone through and though you might wonder, it is also like a musical fusion that is surprisingly strong and differs from the first track. Running under two minutes, it gives you the words ‘yaad na keray mainu’ which almost take on the quality of an internal chant.
Talal Qureshi, in his debut LP, has a lot to say and he does it with songs that are produced with instinct, improvisation (where needed), and experience. Your listening experience could be completely different, but in the end, if the goal was to make compelling songs, Turbo has hit the jackpot.
‘Sola’ featuring Zahoor is like finding a new treasure on an adventure that makes you wonder about its origin. You know nothing about it but like the treasure that has you arrested, so does the song. Zahoor’s voice in this form can take one by surprise, as does Talal’s, it makes you wonder where has this voice been hiding all this time or were we too distracted by the plethora of music that is available with just a few clicks to pay serious attention? Nonetheless, complementing each other, both voices shine with the sonic setting that’s rich and boisterous and keeps changing.
‘Kali Raat’ featuring Zaw Ali, is about matters of the heart, longing with the musical character that’s so compelling that you feel the weeping heart in it as much as you do in the voice. This is one of the more traditional songs on the record.
Mitika Kanwar makes it possible to discern that there are memories that haunt and hurt but the sonic landscape is so carefully crafted that it feels like you can almost pick up everything from glitchy tones to reverbing in space to a string instrument weeping.
‘Kundi’, performed by Bilal Baloch, Talal Qureshi and Yashraj, is so honest that you know instantly that there is a person who waited too long to say what was in the heart to someone and now this person is struggling and suffering due to loss because they waited a little too long. It is a universal emotion presented with radically different texture. But because Turbo is full of songs that go in directions you cannot predict, the song goes to places when you think it can’t.
You might feel as if you’re hearing the sampling of a flute textured in the layers of the song that is on repeat once it arrives. Is that what Talal Qureshi actually did or is it just my sonic perspective? But this song and what follows don’t require answers because it is not questioning you or even needs to be answered.
Submerged in universal emotions, each song is crafted from scratch to meet the mood, an idea that wills itself through the creation of a world that is unique and feels relatable or like a friend you didn’t think you had anymore.
It will create different moods as you listen to it in various hours of the day or night. Turbo does a high-wire act, and you might think it can fall at any given moment but the truth of the matter is that this high-wire act is what it wanted to present. Lush sounds, emotional vulnerability among other emotions at work, the landscape is much more than eastern-western fusion. It might carry that stamp but it is about what we cannot see.
Glitchy, lo-fi, bubblegum, trap – in some ways it plays with everything but it knows where it needs to go and doesn’t stretch a beat or a single like a mind-numbing irritant.
If you’re listening to the album while walking in the night before the sun has risen, it might give you the speed to accelerate your pace but when listening to it on a cold, callous winter night that is ferocious and with nothing else to disturb you, you might find it to be a comforting quilt that protects you from the chill.
It doesn’t carry one genre and is a schooling in what is genre-defying but also something anyone can connect to as it soars. It connects like an album that is personal, and full of an urban and a rural design.
As you listen to it on repeat, it will showcase anything from sampling to knowing how to use each voice featured to mixing all the ingredients, both overt and otherwise, together. Is it an album that does justice to the idea of eastern-western cloak it wears? Yes, but only if you allow it to and approach with an openness.
Talal Qureshi, in his debut LP, has a lot to say and he does it with songs that are produced with instinct, improvisation (where needed) and experience. You might find the listening experience completely different but in the end, if the goal was to make compelling songs, Turbo has hit the jackpot. It is smart, catchy, with elements as accessible as pop, but also tracks that feel like each was crafted with a feeling. Turbo doesn’t churn out beat after beat in similar and appalling songs. With a method to the madness, Turbo mirrors who Talal Qureshi is as an artist and just how intelligent he can be with music. Play it in a club or play it at home or during a lazy afternoon, it will keep on giving you clues through which you can decipher its genius.