Qasim Ali Naqvi reintroduces the simmering drama of Film Noir.
Known for his lean dexterous drumming in the modern acoustic trio Dawn of Midi, Qasim Ali Naqvi leaves behind the rhythmic imperative, taking his hand to ensemble composition using a mix of graphic and traditional notation.
Preamble, his latest composition released to the NNA Tapes label, succeeds in capturing the range of emotion in classic Film Noir scores. The compositions were originally commissioned to accompany a film installation by media artist Mariam Ghani, and choreographer Erin Ellen Kelly for the St. Louis Museum, inspired by China Miéville’s sci-fi noir novel The City & the City.
The instrumentation of Flute, Clarinet, Vibraphone, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass was performed live by the Contemporary Music Ensemble of NYU, at the Church of the Advent of Hope in Manhattan. The natural reverb of the church gives the recording a warmth and cohesion, even in its more dissonant moments. The vibraphone, with its decaying vibrato, adds a dream-like quality to each piece.
It owes much to Serialism, from the skittering strings that open and close “Meg Erase Meta” to the tone cluster of violin, viola and cello undulating disharmoniously over sawing bass on “Behind Stars.” On “Imagined Garages PT. 2” pointillist interjections of piano and vibraphone add forward movement to a trilling clarinet and whinnying strings.
Naqvi says in the liner notes, “I wanted to strike a balance. I wanted the element of chance but not total chance.” Preamble succeeds with a looseness that never falls into stumbling improv. Each piece gives the impression of purposeful arrangement and the album as a whole consistently engages the listener.