California act Aurat had a breakthrough 2020, with a lot of attention being given to their use of Urdu vocals. But invariably it was the band’s fuzzy but hypnotic presentation of goth and darkwave sounds which gave 2020’s Zeher its legs. Follow-up release Khaar retains the warmth and emotional immediacy of that record, but takes a sharp turn into pure electronics.
As with the band’s preceding work, lead track “¿Can You Hear Me?” hinges on the vocal charisma and delivery of singer Azeka, but the interplay between stuttering rhythmic programming, monotone sampling, and dreamy key washes is a mission statement on Khaar, presaging the rest of the record. Positioning a blocky, classic electro remix thereof immediately after the original is something of an odd choice, breaking up the presentation of original compositions, but if nothing else underlines how committed the band are to focusing on the electronic dimension of their work. These sounds and grooves were certainly a part of Zeher, but were always shot through with distorted goth guitar that’s wholly absent here.
While it might seem easy to lament the exclusion of certain sounds that comes with Khaar‘s focusing in on electronics, it’s difficult to be mad when you’re getting a tight and aggressive set of tunes which still have plenty of variety between them. Compare the metallic speedrun of “Waqt/Saach”, connoting Kas Product or Animal Bodies with the wind tunnel noise of “Takleef”, closing things out on a decidedly ambient note. And the band are becoming more precise, too: the sharp arrangement of “333” neatly doles out noise, samples, and beats and pulls them back with just as much sagacity.
Between Zeher and a handful of streaming performances, Aurat sizably raised their profile beyond California during lockdown. Khaar‘s club-ready sound and tight presentation serves as an excellent calling card as they continue their ascent.