Imaad Wasif has an impressive resumé. Wasif has been part of collaborations for most of his career, so the pivot to making his own material felt like a promising turn. He put out three diverse, vaguely spiritual rock-leaning records in the late 2000s, and wrote three more that never made it to release. One Wasif withheld because he thought it was “too dark,” another due to contractual issues, and a third for reasons unknown. He of course worked with other artists on more projects in between these forgotten LPs, but nevertheless, the lag has left an eight year gap between solo records. As curious as one must be to hear all these lost transmissions, everyone should rest assured that Dzi (say: zee) is a commanding addition to his catalogue, and arguably his most impressive project to date.
Recently, the album was given a full visual treatment, featuring eleven videos synced to the music. A one-time collaborator of Wasif’s, Jeff Hassay, compiled the clips, which range from repurposed movie footage to psychedelic spiders. The official music video for “Carry the Scar” was not included, with Hassay opting to distort the color on footage of contortionists before setting their images ablaze. Flames lick across several of the videos, a symbol of both destruction and renewal, which is apt paired with the music of a deeply spiritual man. Fire and brimstone are said to line Hell, and safe to say Wasif endured his fair share in the creation of this record.
“The thing with this record is that I don’t understand it, even though I wrote it,” he told LA Weekly earlier this summer. He cites a period of disillusionment and hysteria, when he was, according to a press release about the album, prone to paranoid outbursts and frequently scrawled pentagrams to conjure demons. In the same way that there is no explanation for pure coincidence, the foundation of this record is also a sacred mystery.
It opens up with the methodically jagged “Far East,” one of the album’s promotional singles. The track introduces a lot of new elements to Wasif’s music that echo throughout Dzi, including metallic riffs as well as swelling waves of fuzz. He describes it as dream metal, which is also what he named the record’s trippiest song after. More playful iterations include “The Beautician” and “Astronomy,” the latter of which bleeds into acid rock territory. As you venture into Dzi, it won’t take long for references to fathers of the genre to float to mind–Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath. The raw clarity in these melodies can be largely credited to Wasif’s decision to record and edit in analog, without a computer at all–an attempt to avoid the obsessive nature of tweaking a recording for what can seem like arbitrary wavelengths. This call for simplicity gives Dzi a sense of familiarity, without stepping over the line of the derivative.
Wasif has been playing in some band or another for two decades, but his fourth solo record properly displays his honed skills. Sure, The Voidist has a few thrashing moments, and the volume did reach a reasonable height on Strange Hexes, but Dzi reveals a heavier, louder side of Wasif that we hadn’t seen before. And it is in these eleven tracks that he solidifies his place in the rock establishment that he has been brushing shoulders with for so long.
by: Zoë Elaine