There is an obvious sense of isolation, both overt and implied, within this album. As a young composer in the culturally restricted country of Iran, the hushed textures and quiet moments feel forbidden, and therefore all the more attractive to hear. In addition, the quiet, meditative passages are occasionally broken up by sharp, loud outbursts that magnify sense of paranoia in listening to the proceedings.
Utilizing just field recordings, software, and live mixing, A Hidden Place is a dynamic album despite its sparse nature. "Susanna" hides grimy, treated percussive loops below time worn hums and reverberations, burying what would otherwise be boisterous sounds in blankets of quiet. The rhythms take on a flanged, aquatic character as icy melodies rise to the surface to become the focus.
"Somebody" also uses sparse, treated field recordings that sound as if they were collected in secret, with what sounds like distant prayer chants clearly setting the mood in which this was recorded. Voices appear, somewhat overtly, towards the middle of the piece, conveying a feeling of being questioned by some draconian authority. "Pedagogicheskaya Poema" demonstrates this at its most jarring, with subtle, simple sounds constructed into beautiful micromelodies, creating a hypnotic swell that is violently interrupted by a squealing blast of noise, making the implied tension overt.
Organ like bells open "Himmel Uber Tehran" above a rhythmic backdrop of reversed static bursts and clear, digital chimes that take command, once again providing a warm, inviting glow. This is snuffed in the title track as layers of oppressive, but brittle noise cover everything, with the occasional snapping or crackling outburst to be heard. Just as the noise retreats, yelled voices appear, again making the underlying tension tangible.
As the B side ends on "Zarrin," there is a sense of relief that the remaining treated and stretched melodies give. Under a layer of heavy vinyl surface noise, the melodies twist and curve into one another without any harsh outbursts. The pensive, melancholy tones sound like they’re coming off an old LP that has been passed around in secrecy for years.
I have always felt that conceptual music, or works created within a specific context, should function well in a vacuum…meaning that they should still be compelling without knowledge of where, when, or why they were created. A Hidden Place accomplishes that, as there is a lot of hushed beauty and frightening outbursts to be heard. Knowing the conditions in which Sohrab created this, it only adds to the power of this recording, making it fascinating on multiple levels. [Creaig Dunton ]
Utilizing what are now staples of electronic music (Reason 3, MIDI controller and sampler) Tehran-based Sohrab presents a slab of shifting, groove influenced, ambient soundscapes. The album A Hidden Place comfortably posits itself into the necromantic compositional field of pop influenced computer music.
Sound characteristics typify a vibe of isolation, yet don’t seem to yearn too much for company. The first piece “Susana” is the most danceable through the use of repetitive pulse in common time, yet there is no distinctive melody that would assimilate shaking hips. Instead the rhythm is mirrored through gurgling samples and shifting synth-scape material that sweeps through various filters in step with the pulse of the piece. Intensity rises through out the duration of the piece by rising volume of a swirling, ethereal chord which begins to modulate in 3rds and 5ths as the rhythm takes a back seat volumetricly, otherwise there is a serene stasis to the piece.
Each side of the record contains three pieces that blend rather seamlessly, which makes it difficult to differentiate between the tracks. This is of little concern however, as the overall movement and sonic images provided remain intact and complete.
Some pieces include more than the standard IDM palette, making the most of samples such as voices – both spoken and singing – as well as environmental sounds. My favorite would have to be the inclusion of a rooster crowing and clucking which, ostensibly remains unaltered against the electroacoustic tones carrying the piece.
A Hidden Place makes the most of the ambient genre while also pushing it forward by including rhythm and pulse driven pieces as well as incorporating vocal and environmental samples with deft taste in counterpoint to an otherwise bleak electronic album. Very soothing and thought-provoking indeed. [John Collins McCormick]