Kavus Torabi - The Banishing

Kavus Torabi – The Banishing

“With every passing day it gets harder
They tell you it’ll change, how can they know?”

Borne from much turbulence in the form of the pandemic and a concurrent domestic upheaval resulting in estrangement from his family, this album has wisps of dark smoke slowly winding their insidious way through these grooves, but there is an evident spirit of, if not exactly optimism, then resistance that strives to overcome the encroaching darkness.

With his second solo offering, Kavus Torabi, the twinkling Magus of the Southwest, has upped the ante considerably. Although The Banishing was mostly recorded in tandem with his solo debut Hip To The Jag, the former’s later production process has not escaped the unsettling vibes, both externally and personally that our composer was experiencing at the time.

Combining eerie atmospheric melancholia accompanying often bleak lyrics with deceptively breezy alt-pop built on a backbone of repeated minimalistic guitar figures to offset the atramentous mood forged by the words is very effective and serves to highlight Kavus’s increasing confidence as a writer and arranger. The album starts with the protagonist laid low, the mental state of being that is Horizontal Man, something I have been familiar with myself not that long ago, although from a much different perspective than this.

“Every day it kills me over, what have I done?” mourns the regretful multi-layered harmony of Kavus’s keening tones. The sense of ennui dictated by weighty inertia is palpable. The opening tracks on albums are usually upbeat affairs, or at least loud and in your face, so this is an unusual diversion, right at the beginning. I think we’re in for a different trip here.

More personal resonance is brought home to me in the repeated line “What’ll happen now you’re alone?” on album closer Untethered, a song that manages to be calm but edgy all at once. An uncertain but hopefully exciting future beckons! Between those two album bookends Kavus takes us on a journey through karmic trauma and cosmic mapping, detailing a personal derailment through musical metaphor and brutal lyrical honesty, an endeavour that strives to get our man back on track but eventually ends with that keening note of uncertainty.

The strange scene-setting of The Horizontal Man is followed by the sprightly pop of Snake Humanis, a reflective number with an XTC-like backing highlighted by a short but lovely understated guitar break to boot. Those two tunes highlight perfectly the natural effusive and enthusiastic character of our cosmic guide fighting through the initial cloud of despond. The following Heart The Same, another danceable choon of some merit, incorporating as it does a headrush of a middle section, sprinkled in Kosmische dust, and a spiky repeated guitar figure that cuts through like a knife. There is now a maturity on display in Torabi’s songwriting that while maintaining the psychedelic vibe, additionally displays a temporal discipline that maybe wasn’t always apparent. Separation and loss are sobering things.

Reconciling what he has lost with what might be yet to come, Kavus intones “And the life you left behind rotating slowly, waiting for the next one to begin” on A Thousand Blazing Chariots, a rare moment of hope. The soul searching continues onto side two of the album, and it occurs to me that all this is actually a very brave thing to do, laying your heart bare for all to see. An object lesson in catharsis. Side two (yes, you’ve already guessed I am an old-school vinyl nut!) opens with something of an epic, The Sweetest Demon which is musically at least on more familiar ground for followers of Kavus’s muse.

Push The Faders is not an easy listen. Musically it orbits fairly serenely but lyrically it is coming from a place of deep pain and guilt: “When I kicked and screamed like a child and scared you away, scared you away, like a fever fiery and wild then I couldn’t stay any longer”. Jeez, if you knew nothing of Kavus’s troubles, you certainly know after hearing this!

Despite mentioning the last track at the start of this wibble, it looks like this is turning into a kind of track-by-track review, which is something I strive to avoid, so the penultimate track you’ll have to find out about for yourself. One thing I will say about Mountains Of Glass is that what sounds like strings is actually “a few harmoniums put through a massive reverb” as the man himself described it to me. Now there’s something you don’t hear every day! Kavus also tells me that “every part of the album is ‘played’ rather than programmed, even if I had to do it one phrase at a time”, which shows what a labour of love this has been.

Whether or not you are a fan of the work of Mr Torabi, you cannot fail to be moved by this confessional-without-anaesthetic. Something for those late nights of introspection, I think, and highly recommended! Finally I should mention the exquisite artwork on the LP version, which comes with a silver foil sleeve and a fold out poster both designed by Kavus, the reverse of the poster including all the lyrics. Also, Kavus is on tour in the UK throughout August, and playing at some unlikely venues too! A full list is on the Facebook page linked below. Go see him if you can!

Ed’s note – dates can also be found in the very popular 😉 TPA UK Gig Guide

01. The Horizontal Man (5:04)
02. Snake Humanis (3:29)
03. Heart The Same (7:44)
04. A Thousand Blazing Chariots (3:58)
05. The Sweetest Demon (5:53)
06. Push The Faders (3:55)
07. Mountains Of Glass (7:51)
08. Untethered (4:24)

Total Time – 43:20

Kavus Torabi – From the man himself:
Guitars (plus lots of pedals/ ebow/ gliss etc), Bass, Fender Rhodes, Prophet synthesiser, Santoor, Vichitra Veena, Harmonium, Snare, Tambourine, Ride Cymbal, Bass Drum, Autoharp, Hand Claps, Double Bass, Guzhen, Shakers, Prayer Bells, Glockenspiel …instruments I own or had access to (in the case of Prophet, Double Bass and Rhodes)
I THINK that’s it!
~ With:
Kate Davis – Flute (2)

Record Label: Believers Roast
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 3rd May 2024

Kavus Torabi – Facebook | Bandcamp | X