Bay Area-based Afghan-American musician, composer and producer Maryam Qudus has been driven by a lifelong devotion to music: When she turned 12, she traded chores for guitar lessons; when she was 16, she took on after school jobs to pay or voice lessons. As a first-generation Afghan-American child of working-class immigrant parents, finding a place in music was nothing short of a challenge for Qudus. “Women are often discouraged from pursuing music in the Afghan and Muslim community, and those who follow that path receive a lot of heat,” she explains.
Qudus’ career began in earnest with her first solo project Doe Eye, which quickly received radio airplay, magazine features and blogosphere buzz after 2014’s John Vanderslice-produced Television, a lush batch of indie pop and spacey rock. Working with Vanderslice at his San Francisco co-op-turned studio, Tiny Telephone opened new avenues for the Bay Area-based artist: She began studying at Bay Area-based recording arts non-profit Women’s Audio Mission, eventually interning both there and at Tiny Telephone, before becoming a staff engineer at both.
Picking up studio techniques and tricks from clients like Wax Nine Records artists Sad13, Toro Y Moi, Sasami, and Tune-Yards helped inspired the arrangements she was working on. And in between sessions, she was able to play with electronic ambiance and tape experimentations for her latest solo project Spacemoth.
Qudus’ Spacemoth full-length debut, No Past No Future is slated for a July 22, 2022 release through Wax Nine Records. Centered around lush, intergalactic, avant-pop made with vintage synths like the Yamaha CS-50 and Korg Polysix with fluttering tape manipulations paired with Qudus’ striking vocals, No Past No Future thematically serves as a reckoning point between nostalgia and nihilism, exploring the struggle to hang on to a moment as it warps in time. Overall, the album radiates in the awe of the complex emotional landscape humans contain within themselves and the preciousness of our time here.
Last month, I wrote about No Past No Future‘s third single “Waves Come Crashing,” a swooning and hypnotic pop song featuring blown out beats, glistening analog synths, wobbling tape distortion and rumbling bass paired with Qudus’ plaintive vocals and a razor sharp hook. Sonically, the song seems to simultaneously nod at the dusty yet retro futuristic leanings of BBC Radiophonic Workshop and JOVM mainstays Pavo Pavo, but while increasingly getting darker emotionally — and sonically — as the song flutters and wobbling to its conclusion.
Throughout the song, the song’s narrator confronts the inevitability of death while exploring the most difficult and heartbreaking aspect of falling and being in love — the fear of losing the person you love. “‘Waves Come Crashing’ was written during a period when I was haunted by the idea of losing my partner,” Qudus explains. “I would lay awake at night and all I could think of was ‘what if something happens to them tomorrow‘? While I was unable to shake these thoughts, I slowly realized my time spent worrying about loss was consuming the time we have together.”
No Past No Future‘s fourth and latest single, “Round In Loops” is centered around woozy, analog tape loops, looping and glistening guitar lines and blown out beats paired with Qudus’ plaintive and dreamy delivery. While being a wobbly yet infectious bit of dusty, psych pop, the song thematically focuses on the cyclical patterns we create and endure throughout our lives — to the point of being nonsensical and defeatist.
“I often start a song by creating tape loops and layering different sounds together to create a bed of abstraction to build upon,” Qudus explains. “In ‘Round In Loops,’ I wanted to connect the loops in the song with the cyclical patterns we endure both in our minds and in our lives.”
Co-directed with her brother Dean, the accompanying video for “Round In Loops” is a hazy, lysergic and playfully loving homage to the classic and memorable Maxell “High Fidelity” ad campaign in the early 80s, essentially adding to the overall analog feel.