Maryam Qudus a.k.a. Spacemoth, a first-generation Afghan American kid of working-class immigrant parents, has been pursuing a music career since her adolescence. She began trading chores for guitar lessons when she was 12, and at 16, began working after school to pay for voice lessons.
Qudus’ position in music was built out of her desire and perseverance. Drive.
She’d be classified as a “gym rat” in the sports world, someone who arrives several hours before practice to sharpen skills on their own, and who then remains a couple of hours after the rest of the team leaves to self-reinforce the lessons gained during practice.
However, there are other explanations for her distinctive, up-and-coming career.
“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 mentions in her official bio.
So Qudus went back to work, this time at the San Francisco arts non-profit Women’s Audio Mission and the legendary Tiny Telephone Recording, where the owner and musician John Vanderslice introduced her to new artistic options. She eventually became a staff engineer at both WAM and Tiny Telephone.
Through these gig, she established a solid reputation as a go-to studio engineer, and began working with artists like Toro y Moi, tUnE-yArDs, Sasami, and Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz. Soon, the studio hacks she picked up from those clients were providing her with countless a-ha moments in her own work, and driving her to find electronic frequencies and conduct experiments with analog gear.
Spacemoth is the artistic identity of Qudus, who has now collaborated in the studio with Thao Nguyen and mxmtoon, as well as produced for Sour Widows. Despite her impressive resume, no one knew how expansive her No Past No Future record would be.
On it, Qudus wafts forth imaginative astral-pop feelings that teeter between opaque Bowie moments and synth-pop Berlin creations throughout the course of 41 minutes. “Waves Come Crashing,” a bop created during a moment when Qudus was troubled by the thought of losing her companion, comes to the conclusion that one must stop worrying and just appreciate with dignity the little time we humans have here amongst each other.
And yes, the song “L.O.T. F.,” in dream-pop balladry, depicts the difficulties of having additional pigmentation in an eggshell white world.
Lyrics “What I would give to have skin like yours/The sensation of freedom without a cost“ appeal to anyone who, for various reasons, feels like they stand out. They cement the fact that Spacemoth’s inventiveness is not limited to studio production.
But it’s what Qudus is able to create with the old synths described in the liner notes, such as the Yamaha CS-50 and Korg Polysix, along with Beatle-Esque Rubber Soul reverse tape looping, that elevates this record into space-age exactness.
The music’s sensations are akin to what aliens must feel traveling across the sky, peering into other lives. Those wide vistas of strawberry sunsets and cosmic self-examination demonstrate that Qudus, ever the grinder, the musical gym rat, does indeed triumph.
Stream Spacemoth’s No Past No Future here.