IT'S EASY TO USE words like "nomadic," "mystic," and "transcendent" to describe the music of local guitarist Ilyas Ahmed. His records, hewn with droning psychedelic guitars and the influence of outsider folk heroes, are as mysterious as they are intimate, never drawing attention to the person behind the guitar, but nonetheless conjuring a deeply storied and magical persona.
His newest album, With Endless Fire, is no exception, bridging the gap between seemingly disparate concepts: familiarity and distance, blurriness and distinction. Its pace and beauty overwhelms with a fluid meditative energy, transfixing the listener. The songs waft outward like smoke, formless and diffuse, billowing patiently until no trace remains. It's as if Ahmed's music is transmitted from beyond our earthly plane, and thus the open-ended listening experience his music provides is well suited to self-examination, or meditation upon distant memories.
Speaking to Ahmed, there's little pretense—the act of creation for him is as natural as the air he breathes. "Music is like an elemental thing. It's like fire or water. I know that sounds sort of hippie-ish, but I really do look at it as this thing that's just part of life," he says. Living and breathing his music on a daily basis, Ahmed's records are ultimately the result of whatever events are contributing to his state of mind at the time he writes them, and presenting his art as both an honest manifestation of those circumstances and his evolving character is urgently important to him. Ahmed even abandoned an album that he no longer identified with. "I made one record awhile ago that was pretty dark. I didn't do anything with it; I ended up just burying the tape somewhere in town."
He's clearly attached to the past, and readily awaits what the future may bring, but the ultimate reality for him is where memories are made—in the here and now. It's this present-minded willfulness and spontaneous creative drive that allow his music to serve as a vessel for his own remembrances, an autobiographical process that preserves and communicates the stories of his life.