By now anyone even remotely aware of the new wave of rock and indie outfits in Dhaka would be remiss to not be familiar with the name Rakat Zami
Of course, it is in helping shepherd the sounds of seasoned groups such as Nemesis and Indalo that Zami has firmly planted himself as the de facto guy when it comes to the often thankless (yet essential) job of music production.
However, while his reputation as a producer precedes him, Zami has always worn his wider ambitions as a musician proper on his sleeve.
Under the moniker of Embers in Snow, the guy has been playing shows for the better part of a decade now, even making the occasional radio appearance -- there was never any doubt that, musically, he has a lot more to offer.
And with the release of his debut LP, Solstice, Rakat Zami finally attempts to cement that.
Unfortunately, first impressions of the album underwhelm. Opening track “The Woods,” despite a beautifully subdued intro, opts to spend the remainder of its time in that uninspired middle ground that exists between post-Zooropa U2 and pre-Viva la Vida Coldplay -- certainly a sound that deserves to be left in the wastebin of history.
However, follow-up track “Moires” -- an arpeggiated trip that would not sound out of place in a Porcupine Tree album -- manages a paradigm shift that sets the stage for the rest of the record, while the third track “Downtown” (containing a guest appearance by Zubair Choudhury of Indalo on the guitar) provides a loose sense of … I guess “fun” would the best way to describe it.
This is where the album begins in earnest.
What starts as a stripped-down acoustic affair in “Satellites” swells into a semi-electronic elegy to the concept of solitude, definitely the best display of Zami’s songwriting skills throughout the album; and in “Flight” Zami can be heard doing his best Brandon Boyd impression (and I mean that in the best way possible).
From there the album maintains its momentum for the most part, despite the occasional lull here and there in some of the following tracks. But the biggest mark against Embers in Snow’s debut can be leveled at the vocal performance.
While not a bad singer by any stretch of its definition, Zami’s performance is, most of the time, a little too conservative -- relying on soft-styled crooning even when a song would offer the scope for a more open-throated approach to singing. That, and perhaps there were some issues with the way the vocal tracks were mixed as well.
Which brings us to the nitty-gritty, the technicalities: The production.
Boy oh boy, does this album sound good. Impeccably produced, Embers in Snow’s debut LP is one of the “prettiest” sounding records that I personally have listened to, if that makes sense. From the precise-sounding synth work in “Satellites” to the “just right” amount of reverb on the guitar in “Safira,” there is no doubt that this is among his best work. One would almost believe that Zami perhaps saved his best work for his own work, when it comes to production. But that would be speculation.
Embers in Snow’s Solstice is a debut record done well. While Zami’s songwriting is often evocative of a winter wonderland -- perhaps inspired by his formative years spent in the frozen wastelands of Canada -- the album provides the sort of chill summertime listening that we could all be enjoying outside.
Even though that would be a terrible idea, given the current state of affairs.