The video for "Redeemer," from Imaad Wasif's third solo album The Voidist, pretty much sums up the album: freaky seventies L.A. hippy weirdness.
There are naked women worshipping the sun and doing interpretive dances, superimposed over sun-stained shots of flowers, footage of Wasif meditating, and facepaint. It seems like everyone involved was on either peyote or mushrooms (acid would be too inorganic for this crowd).
It's the kind of scene that might have taken place in a desert outside of L.A. in 1975 with a bunch of musicians from Laurel Canyon. In other words, it's awesome.
Imaad Wasif is probably best known as the touring guitarist of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's. There's not much trace of the YYY's twisted garage rock here, though.
Instead, Wasif goes for witchy and trippy, shifting between the psychedelic rock of "Skulls" and "Priestess" and the quieter psychedelic folk of "Widow Wing" and "Another."
"Fangs" combines them both, starting out as spacey folk before inserting a wickedly fuzzed out guitar solo at the end. The end result is like a slightly more grounded Devendra Banhart with chunkier riffs, or Donovan jamming with Black Sabbath circa 1975.
The Voidist isn't retro, it's from another era. Wasif isn't some hipster in bellbottoms trafficking in irony, he's the real deal. He really means it, man. It's not all batik prints and earth tones, either. Wasif doesn't just channel the groovy seventies; he also captures the darkness of that decade.
This was the time of Jim Jones and Charles Manson, the ten years that kicked off with Altamont and ended with an energy crisis. There is a touch of evil to a song like "Redeemer" or "Our Skulls," and the hippy-dippy lyrics are tempered with lines like "I'm deranged!" All of this anachronism is fine and good, but the most important thing about Wasif is that he has a gorgeous voice and is a solid songwriter. There are hooks all over this album, with Wasif's voice soaring through the choruses.
While the uptempo, electric guitar songs are more immediately engaging, the quieter moments on The Voidist are also rewarding. "Widow Wing" has a gentle beauty, and there is genuine longing in "Return to You," as Wasif sings "Be still my heart!" He even channels "Desolation Row"-era Dylan on "The Hand of the Imposter."
Ok, so you have to buy into Wasif's schtick to truly appreciate what he's doing , and his lyrics can get a little goofy. It's worth the suspension of belief, though; The Voidist is a gem of an album, no matter what decade it's from.