Tehran has one of the world’s most futuristic, alive electronic scenes. It just sometimes exists in and out of Iran. It floats into other places, sometimes unexpectedly underground in the city, sometimes flung around the globe through connections between artists and the impressions they make on the rest of us.
COVID-19 is something of a nightmare for this form of connection, of course. For all the difficulties they face living there, friends living there have endlessly talked to me about the importance of closeness – even if some of that happens in private spaces. It’s a life that is the opposite of social distancing. Then there is the reality that even as events have started up again in many places, this international exchange in the music world has often been the last to return, occurring sporadically in 2020-2021 if at all.
I suppose for any of us who feel that locality without necessarily keeping it in walking distance from our present position, who want that closeness to the people we care about and feed that into our music, this has been an indescribably tough time. Parts of ourselves were left behind.
Tehran Contemporary Sounds in Berlin feels more like a return to that life, and I know we feel really lucky that it’s happening. Most of the artists – even some based in Tehran – will be around in person. Others – CDM favorite Temp-Illusion for instance – will join virtually.
But I hope we get to share some of this music with all of you. It’s just hard to imagine adventurous electronic music life without Iranian-based and Iranian-diaspora artists. I know there’s an added pressure for artists to be recognized for their innovation and unique voice, and not through filters of otherness and exoticism. I’m a great fan of Persian musical traditions, and we’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of access to that in Germany, too. But it ought to be possible to view that as added depth to artists’ musical backgrounds, not as a constraint on how we hear music from people of Iranian background or based in Tehran or elsewhere in the country. There are absolutely artists drawing on that tradition and with significant training who move into other areas, too.
For so many artists around the world, that perspective has already shifted – to the extent that producers look to Sote and his label Zabte Sote, or 9T Antiope, or Temp-Illusion and Amir B. Ash, or many others for inspiration. These artists often push the rest of us forward and point where to go. And in that feeling of trying to find futurism amidst the darker sides of the world we live in, you can trace musical resonance and interconnection across artists coming from very different and distant corners of the planet.
There’s always more to discover, so I’m very excited about these coming days. (I also feel fortunate to get to work for the first time with Pari San on her live set.)
Anyway, you shouldn’t listen to me ramble; better to listen to the music.
Curator/ringleader Behrooz Moosavi sends along an excellent playlist, with one track from each artist, so you get the full range and plenty of links to follow:
Working with patch cables and software alike, from June, artists Hadi Bastani + Yalda Zamani give you a solid half an hour of organic, flowing bubbles, burbles, glitches, and intricate rhythmic complexities. (seriously, play to the end; it’s fantastically diverse)
Pari San is making wild, posthuman, self-reflective experimental post-pop – something like that; I’m glad to be starting on the journey of finding new sounds together. Here’s a wonderful sense of that from her track “Alien”:
Sote is a double threat, producing one of our favorite labels (I mean, generally a favorite label – with or without any angle about where it’s from) – and at the absolute bleeding edge of production skills. For anyone skeptical of Berlin’s infamous club Berghain – and, indeed, it’s perfectly fair to be skeptical of a typical club night there as anywhere – I’d be queuing up there for 6 hours if Sote were playing live again. We’re lucky they let us use the building for that sort of thing every now and then.
Bethanien’s Studio 1 this week will do, too, though.
That fiercely advanced sound design meets up with the musically gymnastic visuals of Tarik Barri:
9T Antiope have remained busy, lately, too. This latest in their series of dystopian electronic landscapes seems to draw directly on avant-garde electroacoustic classics – certainly some of the feeling of their home base Paris – but bends it in a way that is present and connected to our moment.
Roody’s lyrics are so cutting, that they can hit us even in the English subtitles in this video – “Pigeons have gone deaf from the silence of the city” – and make us wish you knew the native language, those of us who don’t.
Anyway, listen to the full set, please. Oh yeah, and I should, uh, get back to rehearsing.
Since we are on this planet and can’t all easily get to Kunstquartier Bethanien, hope we continue sharing sounds with you. But those of you who are around the corner, well, tickets are selling but a few are left.
There’s also an exhibition run by Nullsight, on top of the 16 performances across 3 days. TCS the organization has been around since 2018 but it’s great to see them growing like this, alongside some other projects between Germany and Iran and this diaspora.
Bonus – a 2020 compilation from the same collective/organizers: