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Rafiq Bhatia w. WILLS
November 5, 2018 @ 8:00 pm$16 – $20
Opening set from WILLS.
Breaking English, the Anti- Records debut of New York composer and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, seeks to shatter preconceptions about how much can be said without a word—and, for that matter, who can say it. Bhatia’s audacious first album as a producer sets out to challenge existing musical vocabulary with a language of its own.
In 2012, Bhatia issued two improvisation-driven recordings whose surreal sonics “set them miles apart from the vast majority of records by jazz musicians” (New York Times). These releases earned immediate acclaim; the Washington Post observed, “Instead of haggling over jazz’s traditional perimeters, both recordings employ the sonic language of hip-hop and electronic composition to press toward a more interesting future.” But with his next project, Bhatia felt compelled to find a more personal path forward. For most of his listening life, he’d loved records in which familiar sounds were refashioned into wonderfully alien strains, where iconoclastic ideas met cutting-edge technology to yield a new lexicon. Making music like this would mean reaching beyond his six strings and customarily collaborative approach, especially his reliance on outside producers. To get where he needed to go, he would need to learn how to sculpt sound for himself.
It was during this period of reinvention that Bhatia joined Son Lux, a studio-centered project in which producer Ryan Lott used software to warp found sounds into dazzling electronic experiments. Son Lux afforded Bhatia the chance to record with the likes of Lorde and Sufjan Stevens, but, more important, it gave him the support he needed to develop his voice as a producer—the process that ultimately yielded Breaking English.
The resulting album ruptures the hermetic vernacular of ambient sculpturalism with the emotional intensity of avant-garde jazz, using the techniques of the former to achieve the feeling of the latter. Its language is centered on contrast, with opposing strains juxtaposed in order to throw each other into sharper relief—the organic feels more vibrant in the context of the mechanical, the otherworldly more ethereal in light of the ordinary. Throughout, Bhatia’s guitar is just one part of a teeming, much bigger picture. Tense violin, exhaled gospel vocals, ricocheting drums and foreboding bass also populate Breaking English, all characters in an enveloping piece of musical cinema.