The duo of Shahin Entezami and Behrang Najafi has produced a tape/digital release of reworks that buzzes and screams with the emotion-packed sounds of futuristic, electronic protest.
Remix projects have the potential not just to be about cross-promotion or tapping into some buzzy names, but real cross-pollination. They can trace sonic connections in ways that would otherwise be unheard. You hear the way artists hear one another – and how they respond, in their own voice.
And that’s the powerful feeling here on Pend Reworks. These are artists finding one another, across disconnections and distance, through sound.
The Tehran natives’ work Pend was already a favorite here on CDM. I adored it, as I had their live shows; David Abravanel said of their “aural cold sweats” that he could feel his fists clench. It’s worth revisiting their reflections on lies and warmongering:
As this weapon is used more and more, is the border between truth and lie still recognizable? Has anyone ever estimated how much destruction is caused by a simple piece of news about the escalation of tensions between two countries and the possibility of a war? Aren’t the devastating consequences of war such as death, destruction, poverty and disease the same as the consequences of living with fear and stress in the suspension and dread of war.
In general, isn’t a piece of news about the possibility of war, an act of war itself?
Now, for a second time, artist Sote’s fantastic label Zabte Sote is host to a sonic world that can channel resistance to violence, an emotional catharsis unafraid to face this darkness. Like neural stimulation, their music is “an artificial macro environment of hard electronic funk.” Here, artists produce still more formulations in that universe.
KMRU, the artist from Nairobi whose own rise to prominence grew out of his own relentlessly wonderful self-released Bandcamp stream, opens the release with an achingly gorgeous, melancholy “Two Lands” remix. All the metallic mournfulness of the original is remade in groaning, uneasy tones, like an opening elegy.
Selm then immediately takes the same track and forges blasts of distorted electrified industrial klaxons – for those not in the know (like me, before I looked), that’s the same The Brothers Giets who released as Selm on Opal Tapes.
Filmmaker makes “Construction of Insomnia” into a chilly, precise groove in this gem from the Colombian artist.
Idlefon is a Tehran-based artist (Hesam Ohadi) finding resonance in the words of Martin Luther King, words that take on added urgency and defiance in the context of fiercely punctuated bass beats.
xin spins a new “NanKraws,” which knocks and stutters with a sense of forward-propelled anxiety, before giving way to a surprise, cinematic left-turn.
Rojin Shafari, a labelmate, I’ve written about before – she’s an ideal example of the kind of musical talent now living outside Iran. Her “Caustic Surface” is a high point of the release, a tour-de-force of form and percussion that draws the emotional energy of that track into new dimensions, sophisticated rhythmic patterning and insistent piano notes rotating around an ever-unfolding set of timbral textures and dancing geometries.
Elvin Brandi from Wales makes a digitally-altered punk opera out of fragments of two tracks, warped digitally to the edges of samples and pitch, a kind of freaked-out aria interlude in the release.
tsrono is pure IDM, without sounding like a throwback, and almost feels like a calming, stable influence in this larger arc – amidst those richly-patterned cool beats.
Pouya Ehsaei, Iranian now in London, is another mainstay of this tight-knit community of adventurous artists, and here has his usual sensitivity, stretching and weaving textures amidst some thumping rhythmic scaffolding with delicacy and nuance. Slowly, you hear a new, uncertain harmonic progression start to emerge, motion moving from unsteady to a gentle amble.
And then, as if programmed as a live concert, the duo finishes out with Aho Ssan‘s violently futuristic tsunami of crashing sounds, quivering pads, and explosive hits. The Parisian artist has been on Subtext and Atonal and seems fitting of enormous sound systems.
That track fades out and up – almost like a question, unresolved, hanging on a high fifth.
Let’s be honest, even as some of the Iranian artists are currently unable to travel, on this compact cassette they’ve more or less programmed their own festival, exactly in sequence. As with this closing, there’s no doubt that this could scale to giant speaker stacks and enthrall crowds.
Until then, I’m grateful for those artists we can gather together, and send good vibrations to those artists abroad. Somehow, the Tehran scene remains a hub for the world, sometimes with Tehran and sometimes without it.
Bonus – here’s Pouya and friends patching away recently:
And a live set from Temp-Illusion at Tehran’s own Tadaex festival/art exhibition:
Part in-person, part virtual (for those who can’t make it), Tehran Contemporary Sounds festival is coming to Berlin later this month: