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Visions of Darkness in Iranian Contemporary Music: Persia’s Post-Apocalyptic Present

by Thomas Proskow

Iran is a beautiful country few in the West get to know or appreciate. It’s a country with an incredibly rich history and its culture is in a constant state of transformation, often hidden from the western world behind a curtain of political chaos and strictly conservative religious laws. Youth culture and music was, for a very long time, heavily repressed, but as the world becomes increasingly connected through technology, so have many determined creative minds soldiered on through their personal quests to share their soul with the rest of the world.

Thanks to Cold Spring, as well as Raffaele Pezzella of the Unexplained Sounds Group, we now have a taste of what’s to come from a brand new horizon of dark electronic music, mastered by none other than Martin Bowes of Attrition.

Narcissus Kasrai

Prior to exploring the artists at work on Visions of Darkness in Iranian Contemporary Music, I was already familiar with Xerxes the Dark (and his side-project Nyctalllz, also featured here) and Alphaxone through their output on labels such as Cryo Chamber and Kalpamantra. While their quality is still remarkable, I found many of the more interesting pieces on this two-disc set to be the lesser known artists whose compositions focused more on taking risks and experimenting in order to generate a more unique atmosphere. The textures range from peaceful and serene to intense and hallucinogenic, with a strong focus on high-end production values. You can quite literally hear and feel the rich Persian cultural and artistic influence throughout.

The first disc seems to be largely focused on light, airy, or otherworldly compositions, while the darker and more chilling pieces begin to rear their heads on the second disc.

Reza Solatipour

S.S.M.P. gives us a slight twist on ethereal ambient techno, with ‘The Blue Chasm’ bringing to mind a journey across some virtual dreamscape through augmented reality. Reza Solatipour brings us some chilling post-apocalyptic desolation with “Surviving the Darkness.” Narcissa Kasrai brings a refreshing taste of warped, surreal sound-collage that really stands out from the other pieces here. Mysterious artist Idft brings us a nightmarish piece of death ambient full of death rattles and undead wails sounding as if they were lifted straight from a night terror had it happened to the members of Endvra after an unhealthy indulgence of ether. Annunaki Signal brings us back into the world of cosmic highways and on toward vistas unknown.

The only underwhelming tracks that are present on this collection were the contribution from Hossein RangChi—a somewhat tedious thirteen minutes of plonking away at a piano while drones and feedback rise and fall in the background—and the final track by Mehdi Behbudi and Vahide Sistaani which mainly constituted a lengthy piece of spoken word in Farsi while what sounds like someone making popping sounds with their mouth babbles on in the background.

Visions of Darkness in Iranian Contemporary Music represents a new milestone not only in Persian electronic music, but in Middle Eastern music in general. After the breakthroughs made by Alphaxone and Xerxes the Dark, I’m hopeful to hear more of these obscure yet passionate and creative minds unleash more of this brand of dark ambient industrial into the waiting international music community.

Unexplained Sounds Group | Cold Spring