Tuesday 19 September 2017

Review: Various Artists – 'Visions Of Darkness (In Iranian Contemporary Music)'

'Visions Of Darkness (In Iranian Contemporary Music)'

Any compilation from Cold Spring records is going to be esoteric in nature but even by their standards this new release is pushing at their own boundaries. As the title of the compilation states the contributors are all dark ambient artists working in Iran. This is quite interesting due to the country's youth culture has been heavily restricted for a long time and where international restrictions and black listing has meant that Iranian artists have a great difficulty getting
the resources to better develop their projects. Still, the talent and enthusiasm on display here hints at an untapped jewel of experimental music in the country.

The album encompasses genres such as dark ambient with noise, and drone also coming through. Artists such as Saint Abdullah, S.S.M.P, and Limen utilise rhythm to great effect creating gritty but infectious grooves. While the rest of the acts such as Xerxes The Dark, Reza Solatipour, Ronchus, DSM, Annunaki Signal, and Crows In The Rain favour ambient soundscapes occasionally punctuated with harsh noise elements or entrancing melodic embellishments.

Despite this being a compilation there is a very nice flow to the album. A high and consistent quality of the recordings, careful duration and attention to detail make this compilation feel more like a complete album. And despite clocking in at over two hours long across both discs the time seems to melt away.

Production-wise the tracks, even the harsher ones are individually well produced, but under the careful curation of tracks along with the excellent mastering job from Martin Bowes they form a dynamic whole. Which makes this and absolute pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

Each artist offers up something genuinely intriguing and for fans of dark ambient material, the prospect of so many new and unknown artists will definitely be a big selling point. But the most important thing that this compilation does is chip away at the pre-conceived notion that alternative and experimental music is a purely western phenomenon. That central Asia, the middle east and Africa are not black spots where the avant garde suddenly ceases to be. Yes, there may be many areas of cultural repression, but these pockets of expression exist, are producing great music, and are worth championing.  

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