Imaad Wasif’s Dzi Galvanizes an Idiosyncratic Brand of Rock
Los Angeles rocker Imaad Wasif has been overdue to release new music. With his latest album, Dzi, he has put something out for all psychedelic fans to jam to. It may have taken him a couple tries, but hopefully Wasif has heard the saying “third time’s a charm.” Taking hints of Indian raga and mixing them with Western rock, Dzi is an album that, for 11 electrifying tracks, makes one stop and think about his or her life purpose
Wasif’s mixes stay in their own lanes, while his transitions are smooth and sensible. The album might tug at existential feelings, but musically it does something else. And, while it may be difficult to pin down what Dzi is actually about, its tracks are resolute nonetheless. Wasif takes ambivalence and ambiguity and uses them as a powerhouse to accentuate the minimalist nature of his work.
The introduction, short and sweet, is perhaps the most reminiscent of Indian raga music. The essence of chanting pours through the acoustic guitar used to set the scene. Dzi, which is a reference to The Tibetan Book of The Dead, translates roughly to “shine” and “brightness,” elements that are clearly demonstrated throughout most of the tracks on the album. Wasif sets himself apart by taking a piece of his heritage and incorporating it into Western music. “Far East” is upbeat and heavily influenced by Western cowboy rock. The folky sound rivals that of Bright Eyes, but oftentimes resembles Arctic Monkeys as well. It is, overall, one of Dzi‘s stronger songs, encompassing every piece of a usual rock single.
“Astronomy” features aggressive guitar riffs, taking on a very psychedelic vibe from the onset. It’s also another favorite off of the album. Wasif’s voice isn’t exactly monotone — it’s unique in the way that it is soft but still boasts a wide range in tone. The song has moments where it sounds funky, with a ’70s-esque rock influence, especially with its use of distortion. Utilizing this — on top of the fact that Wasif recorded on a Tascam cassette track — gives certain parts of the song a metal, grungy sound, as Wasif alters his vocals enough to match the aggression seeping out of the track. Also, the bits of tambourine are an appreciated detail.
“Carry the Scar” is raunchy, containing the most representative mix of what Wasif does best. His airy, soft vocals matched with spacey samples and guitars further exemplify simplicity at its finest. It will remind listeners of Pink Floyd. This song is something that sounds perfect while driving on the freeway. The bridge and chorus are lyrically simple, allowing the listener to take in the instrumentals. Towards the end, the track shifts to a distinctly different tempo, but Wasif doesn’t lose a single beat. The breakdown, which leads into an eerie ending, is topped off with soft croons from the artist.
“Marie” is a slower song that drips of Southern California influence. Lana Del Rey could’ve almost sung this song, but it wouldn’t have been as clean. It sounds like someone from Best Coast produced it, and the influence is invigorating. The difference in sound between this track and the rest could’ve been disastrous for a novice artist, but it works wonderfully on Dzi.
“Turn Away” starts off slower, but is a little more expressive in tempo. This is the first time that the vocalist has roughness to his voice — the listener can hear cracking through Wasif’s startling, yet composed, gravelly drawl. The chorus bursts with color, loud and rampant with chaotic guitar riffs supported by deafening bass, drums and sullen piano. “Dream Metal” is haunting, using the power of slowed-down rock to accentuate a stoner metal vibe. The song almost sounds like it’s influenced by Black Sabbath. It’s also another number that is aggressive musically and vocally, with Wasif’s voice reaching a screeching pitch at one point. Somehow, though, the end of this song is slow and sensual, which coincides with the vocals and lyrics.
The last four songs on the album are also worth a listen. “Mirror Image” takes on pop rock, “The Beautician” is consistent in tone and has some pretty exquisite high notes, “I’m Changing” has a ’60s, Beatles feel and “Underlight” is reminiscent of Cat Power. Again, Wasif takes simplicity and uses it to craft a beautiful, sad song — while continuing to be psychedelic.
A man of many projects, ranging from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Lykke Li, Wasif continues to push boundaries with his unique brand of music. The artist wanted to accentuate primitive rock sounds and that’s exactly what he did. Dzi proves Wasif to be a serious contender for the underdog of folk rock.