Rija Yousuf makes textural, ambient pop music with a disarming sense of simplicity under the moniker NOMAD. In a time when many South Asian producers favor maximalism and matching high angst with high volume, restraint and sparseness are NOMAD’s sharpest tools. Yousuf has a day job as an architect, designing humane animal exhibits at the Zoological Garden, and spends time perusing the streets of her hometown, Karachi, Pakistan, conducting field recordings. These sounds find a home in the weathered, dreamy environs of her latest release, YOU DROPPED YOUR MAGIC BEADS!, an EP that brings back memories of Grouper’s rambling ambience and Julia Holter’s dollhouse dreamscapes.

This sprawling, resolutely lo-fi project is a personal invitation from NOMAD to check out her kaleidoscopic new digs. Tracks like “FAERIE GLEN” blossom into existence, wherein layer upon layer of Yousuf’s fragile off-kilter vocalizations are surmounted. Elsewhere, the monastic glow of her music reads like a damaged reel that’s been in the sun too long (“MY TRIBE”). With it’s decidedly handheld production quality, listening to NOMAD’s music is almost a real time experience; you can hear her bring ideas to the table, take a few back, twist and turn some knobs, take her voice in and out. It’s best to simply witness the physicality of this pretty, fragmented music being built and deconstructed in front of you. Scatterbrain passages are patiently rewarded with the lush ebb and flow of sleepy jungle sounds and synthesizers (“BAG OF MAGIC BEADS”).

At the end of the final track, “I SAW OUR FUTURE IN AN ORB”, there’s a delicate, heavy sigh. Her work here is done, for the time being.

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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