Aria Rostami - Sibbe

Aria Rostami

As a child of immigrants from Iran, San Francisco's Rostami came to understand that even his own idea of Iran comes from a specific cohort of the Iranian diaspora living in America and that his view of Persian culture is not the full picture. So what is the full picture? How accurate is our understanding of the world in general? Rostami's response is to take the same route as Americans before him and make an amalgamation of many cultures to create something wholly American.

Sibbe

Historically, American influence proliferates with ease but it has been difficult for media to come from around the world back to America. This has changed with the internet and smart phones. On Sibbe, SIbbe II, and Sibbe III Rostami uses processed field recordings sent to him from Tehran, Kerman and Taipei to insert glimpses of Asia, one of the largest and often over simplified groupings of "The Other." Rostami also incorporated much of his own instrumentation including Piano, Turkish Tar, Melodica, Glockenspiel, Vocals, Synthesizer, Violin and Computer. The representations of outside cultures are only glimpsed at and often left fighting against masses of information and sound.

On the other side of the globe, Iran is a country that imprisons artists and a culture that, due to strict control of personal freedoms, is uncomfortable being recorded. Some of the recordings sent could have gotten Rostami's Tehran source in trouble with the law or otherwise. There were even a few instances where people confronted the source about what was being recorded. Although there are many artists making modern art in Iran, distribution and performance within the country is very difficult and/or in many cases illegal. But, through modern technology, instances of events happening across the world can be digitized and transferred. The source material which was sent and recorded through. This is a representation of how technology opens conversation between cultures, spying and voyeurism through technology, and relationships sustained through cellphones and computers. Sibbe is dedicated to all those who have been killed or imprisoned for making art and to those forbidden to document the cultures they live in.

AB064 | September 2015

Video

 

Interview

  1. Renoise

    Hello, tell us about yourself and what you do.

    I'm both a musician and a producer so I have one foot in composition and performance and another foot in sound design. I've never been too interested in staying in a specific genre but I tend to lean in an experimental direction rather than a pop direction... both as a musician and as a producer.

    Electronic music was something I fell into initially based on convenience in the sense that I didn't need a band. Once I started recording at the age of 15 or 16 I didn't want to wait on collaborators to help me finish songs. I didn't have access to many instrument so I ended up using bad synth patches and editing drums using mostly samples I recorded in my room with a computer mic. By the time I left high school I think I had recorded nearly 300 songs. I still work very fast and I work constantly.

    I don't think I found any true grounding as an artist with something to say until I made the album "Form" at the age of 22. That album was about the illusion of control and both the production and compositions weave in and out from stable to unstable. It was the first group of songs I recorded after I got clean from drugs. It was the base of my simple understandings of adulthood and trying to break free from the cultural mindset and depictions of Millennials. That album was also the base of what the various themes of my music would be.

    A year after I recorded "Form" my best friend and musical collaborator, Shawn Dickerson, disappeared. There's a lot of unsolved specifics to the case but I have good reason to think he's no longer alive. Shawn wasn't the first death I had experienced but he has definitely been the most important person I've lost. He was an amazing talent and unfortunately only released one track... a remix of my song "Cleare" which was released on "Uniform" and if you have time you should give it a listen. My EP "Peter" was a dedication to my relationship with Shawn and more or less based on the world we lived in together.

    There are a few releases after those ones but my creative work at this point centers around death, control, addiction, identity and I try to switch back and forth between a light-hearted playful aesthetic and a dark aesthetic as to hopefully give these topics many dimensions to live in.

    Could you give us an insight into your latest release, Sibbe?

    "Sibbe" (pronounced Sibby) focuses on information, the technology that proliferates that information and cultural identity. Both of my parents were born in Iran but my brother and I were born in the United States. I've only been to Iran once when I was 12... this was pre 9/11 so the Middle East wasn't as large of a cultural topic as it is now. I was just old enough then to understand what Iran was and how it connected to me but not really mature enough to understand what identity is in a larger worldly sense. I especially wasn't ready to become a "professional" on the Middle East, Islam, religious fanaticism, international relations and Iran post 9/11.

    Granted, I definitely knew more about these topics than my peers did, which actually became part of a problem. It took quite some time for me to understand that my knowledge of Iran, Islam and the Middle East was informed by a very specific diaspora. My family, their friends and other Persians I knew all come from a specific slice of the greater Iranian culture. In other words, I only heard one story and I heard it frequently. I had always thought I knew the full picture. Even the news I'd hear from Iran came through major Iranian cities... for example the media tends to focus on Tehran. It's not uncommon for people to ask me about Iran or the Middle East and my thoughts on specific things happening in the news because I am seen as an authority on the topic. In reality, I am removed from the true source and experience and in some ways even my sources are removed.

    "Sibbe" is about that inaccuracy and also the wanting to understand. Some of the source material was sent to me from Iran by my dad and my girlfriend who were visiting at separate times and all the source material for the track "Sibbe III" was sent from Teipei by my friend Nicole who lives out there now. The source material was recorded secretly using cellphones. I wanted to use things like cellphones in this project because it is a way information is spread and collected whether that's reading the news, talking to people in other countries, or NSA spying and data-mining (which is also why I appreciated the recordings were done in secret.)

    I've also been listening to a lot of re-releases of older music from all around the world which have become more and more popular in the last decade. It's always been easy for Western, English speaking countries to proliferate their media and influence to other countries but we're finally at a time and place where the Internet and the greater interest in information has opened up the doors for this music to come back to us.

    I look at "Sibbe" as an American album through and through although a lot of it is influenced by music outside of the United States. I also made a point to nonsensically mishmash cultural tones and ideas to show ignorance, appreciation and a push for something new.

    To what extent do you make use of Renoise in your music creation process and what is the blend of hardware and software in your setup?

    The only D/I I use is an Alesis Ion synthesizer and then everything else is either recorded through a microphone or sampled. When making experimental music, Renoise is my main instrument. Every track on this album and even going back to all the tracks on my first album "Form" were made using Renoise. I may write segments on instruments but I never plan a full song before I start recording because I'd rather filter it through the creative process of production while I'm writing.

    I don't know if this works for everyone but I'd definitely recommend not planning out an entire song before you record it if you're the only person working on the song. The benefit of having collaborators is that there are many minds working at the same time. You can recreate that effect if you record and then write with what you've laid out. The problem with a big idea for a song from beginning to finish is that you'll leave no room for flexibility or serendipity.

    Do you involve live instruments in any way?

    Yes. On the new album "Sibbe" for example I used piano, glockenspiel, violin, synthesizer, vocals, Turkish Tar and melodica. I'll record passages on instruments and then if I don't like the way it turns out I might cut them up and sample them to create something I would never have thought of just sitting in front of the piano, for example.

    The track, Vietnamoses, caters to the dance floor, while the others are more ambient in nature. Was this planned in advance? Why not focus exclusively on one or the other?

    I recorded many songs during this period, some of which had drum tracks. My EP "Czarat" was made during this time and the B-Side was "Vietnamoses."I was originally only going to focus on the experimental non-percussive stuff for "Sibbe" but I thought "Vietnamoses" added something other songs couldn't.

    There may be a sense of elitism in experimental music that sees rhythmic music as lesser than. Or at least this may have been a driving point in the 20th century when people really wanted to challenge what we know about music and now it's just part of the cultural understanding that songs with beats are in one box while ambient experimentalism is in another box. But truthfully, there is an overlap between the two. When done in a specific way, robotic rhythms and free-flowing sounds can each have a trance like hypnotic effect, which I think "Vietnamoses" captures. You can see this connection in cultures that chant or create drones when praying or meditating while other cultures will use drums and poly-rhythms in their religious practices.

    This release just came out on the Audiobulb label. Do you have any upcoming shows or new releases planned?

    I don't really play my solo stuff live because I always create it with home listening in mind, but I am a part of a duo that performs live. I collaborate with Daniel Blomquist and we have two shows planned in San Francisco. We'll be playing with Thomas Dimuzio and two other acts on Saturday, October 17th at Thee Parkside and we'll be doing a collaboration set with a yet to be determined acoustic musician or group curated by Danny Clay on Saturday, December 12th at the Center for New Music. Daniel and I have enough songs recorded for an album, but we haven't shopped anything out quite yet. Our songs are generally in the 10-15 minute range with long, slow builds and towering peaks.

    I also have an LP called "Agnys" coming out digitally and on vinyl on Spring Theory sometime in January or February of 2016. "Agnys" is playful and joyful without being overstated or saccharine sweet and all in all pretty much the opposite in aesthetic when compared to "Sibbe"... all the songs have beats to them for example and they definitely give into a pop sensibility. "Agnys" was initially based around ideas Shawn and I never got to complete, but eventually grew into a bigger world of ideas as I developed it.

    Who would you say have been your biggest musical influences and why?

    Early on the two big ones were Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie. I was mostly into bad metal bands before the age of 14 and both of those guys showed me you could be dynamic with sound and style. I listen to a lot of music now but the artists that I am really inspired by would be people that are widely dynamic. To name a few I'd say John Zorn, Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Moondog, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yoko Kanno, Nobuo Uematsu, David Bowie, Aphex Twin, Daniel Lopatin, Bjork, Can, Demdike Stare, Dungen, Fennesz, Floating Points, Four Tet, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Haxan Cloak, William Basinski, Debussy, Chopin, Googoosh, Satie, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Holly Herndon, Richie Cunning, Opiate, Pole, Andy Stott, Ata Ebtekar, Dariush Dolat-Shahi, Selda, Isao Tomita, Leyland Kirby, Dr. Lloyd Miller, Murcof, Pan Sonic, RAUM, Ryoji Ikeda, Secret Chiefs 3, Tim Hecker, Tortoise...

    Are there any other things that you would say have an influence on your music?

    I get bored very easily so my mind is always racing. I would never be able to pay attention in Elementary School because I was always day-dreaming. Even up until college I never found school to be that challenging... it was always hard for me to pay attention. There are some serious downsides to not really having to work in school... mainly you just don't learn what it's like to struggle to accomplish something but it taught me something about creativity I wouldn't have learned otherwise.

    When I would daydream I would think in ways that were productive. One thing I still do is I take some sort of visual stimulus or an object and I think about what it would be if it were a sound. So not exactly what sound it makes if you hit it but rather what tones, textures, notes, lengths, moods and so forth would this non-sound based stimulus have. I don't mean that you then go ahead and make a concept album based on this or anything... I just did it to keep my mind thinking of sound in a different way.

    One of my favorite musings was light trails on film from old footage of boxing matches in the 70/80's and what that would sound like. I also like to look at plain uninspiring things like pencils and post-its and think about their sound because it's a little more of a challenge.

    How did you find out about Renoise and what attracted you to it in the first place?

    Shawn had introduced me to it through a video Aaron Funk, aka Venetian Snares, posted on YouTube. I had no idea what a tracker was at the time. Renoise is much cheaper to buy than a lot of other equal quality DAWs, so I didn't see the downside of spending the money for a product good enough for someone like Venetian Snares.

    I didn't touch the software for a while though. It wasn't until I went to visit my parents for a week sometime in 2007/8 that I actually used it. The first night I was in town I met up with a good friend and she was at some turning point of her life and needed advice. I didn't know what to say at the time. I went home and recorded an EP over the next 5 days using Renoise for the first time... I was forced to in a sense because I didn't have any instruments to record with. I named the EP "Advice" and I gave it to her at the end of the week. It was just some sweet gesture... I didn't know what else to do. Regardless, I've used Renoise ever since.

    Finally, is there any particular new feature you'd like to see in a future version of Renoise?

    The ability to automate instrument modulations and Autoseek tracks with pitch modulation. It'd also be nice if the pitch envelope could span more than 6.144 seconds like it did in previous versions.

 

Reviews

  1. Echoes & Dust

    Lightly abrasive eastern bell chimes; a bottle tapped with a fork. Imagine a cave or a mystical place: warmth and water cascade beneath you whilst you sit cross-legged, cold a top a large stone pedestal… teetering on a chasm. The world around you begins to rumble and roar – this is not reality. It builds to a crescendo, noisy pads and glitchy ominous backgrounds like a woodwind instrument singing through the heart of a computer. I imagine the ‘Delta’ as a great flowing river connecting the songs to the album; the artist to the listener.

    ‘Sibbe’ flows in from ‘Delta’ naturally. It is built on a steady foundation of warped distorted delays, there is an inherent sadness in this music. Noisy rhythmic pads whimper like hopeless gunfire against the howls and cries of what was likely a prominent stringed instrument, left twisted and warped by the modern world. Moody and bassy pads amass darkness into a crescendo met by distant vocal samples and washed-out percussion that creates a tribal effect. I imagine Aria Rostami would do very well soundtracking documentaries, this album evokes to me the lament of a war-torn area where the malaise purveys through all aspects of life.

    This idea carries on in the next track, I imagine shots fired and shell casings landing on the ground, pads that sound like a thousand reverberated screams met with abrasive vaguely melodic stabs. As the track builds the delta bells return but, the calm is over and it is met only with haunting subterranean sounds and violent pads. How can something that is usually so calming be made so overwhelmingly disturbing? It is a powerfully uncanny listen, if you let yourself be immersed in it. Like a car crash, where you cannot look away; something that utilises the very horrors within ourselves to produce an endlessly beckoning catharsis.

    This trilogy of ‘Sibbe’ concludes here. The opening mechanisms like a train door, the end of a ride but, there’s a long way to go. Here Rostami, eases the pain and accompanies the aftermath. The rails shriek suppressed beneath the eye of the storm. A beautiful brass tone always in the distance like the remainder of hope closing out a powerful triumvirate within the album.

    Dark ambient is a term that gets thrown around a lot. It usually means shit atonal music that some-body with no sense of artistry whacks together and bungs out in a fairly lackadaisical fashion. On this album dark ambient is ameliorated and liberate from its history in the depths of music’s endless library. Nosferatuva builds sense suspense with carefully articulated sounds and samples, that Count Orlok himself could personally have selected. This music is beautifully expressionistic. The challenge of good ambient music or rather good instrumental music is to convey raw emotion with-out the use of vocals or lyrics; to estrange every sound the artist can find in a way that the audience can decode in introspection into a meaning of their own whilst always retaining its own identity. The vampiric bellows that lurk beneath maleficent pads in the first half of the track portray red rage and unquenchable fury in a haunting fashion. Yet, this does not last, all anger eventually subsides like a temper tantrum into delirious exhaustion and that is displayed excellently here. I love the mallets in this track against the samples like heavy falling rain at the end, it creates an almost silent centre of repose. Rostami’s consistently brilliant choice of undertones accentuate these ideas before giving way to an isolated dirge of mallets.

    The penultimate track is Vietnamoses. At this point I decide to delve into the background of the al-bum, sometimes it’s nice to go into music on just a prima facie level and explore your gut reactions. However, I wanted to see what the mysteries surrounding the music where, what broods such immeasurable fathoms of melancholy and despair. I find that Rostami is the “child of immigrants from Iran” who “came to understand that even his own idea of Iran comes from a specific cohort of the Iranian diaspora living in America and that his view of Persian culture is not the full picture. The press release states that “Iran is a country that imprisons artists and a culture that, due to strict control of personal freedoms, is uncomfortable being recorded. Some of the recordings sent could have gotten Rostami’s Tehran source in trouble with the law or otherwise. There were even a few instances where people confronted the source about what was being recorded”. These statements confirmed my suspicions and my fears. The herculean effort that went into constructing the sounds utilising samples recorded on cellphones to represent a country buried in war, horror and paranoia not only pays off but, denotes an artist of notable calibre. These sounds could have been anything but, they are not. They are the product of what they expertly represent which is not only “how technology opens conversation between cultures, spying and voyeurism through technology, and relationships sustained through cellphones and computers” as Rostami’s camp notes but, the venerable struggle of Aria Rostami to fully express what was in his blood.

    Vietnamoses finds the album going in a different direction, there is a pulsing movement within the track that blends drum loops with a Grails-esque eastern post-rock blues. The melancholy palpable and yet, the movement is so engrossing. I wonder how the track got its title? There is perhaps a vibe that could pertain to a river boat in Apocalypse Now drifting through the jungle in surreal chaos. “The horror, the horror.” No two words repeated have ever fully expressed so much, the manifestation of war in linguistic terms, perhaps that notion could be extended to this album as an auditory experience? Is this the core of the so-called war on terror? The crusade of greed, corruption and sensationalism we witness everyday; the ocean of fanaticism, violence and paranoia that the media drowns the modern world in at all turns? The heart of darkness, tangled up in knots and serrated vines; the exasperated sigh of someone who’s seen the world for what it is and laid it bare for a captive audience. An awe-inspiring track on a mesmerising album.

    Broken strings still sing a little. Like a knife against a metal sheet or a slaughterhouse chorus, the last track ‘Crwthrúd exudes something heartbreakingly awful and tragic. Dissonant strings battling the senses, they stretch to the point of rupturing and fall into an alienated screech. Exhuming lost memories, suppressed horrors awakened in the haunted soul. The strings rise from the ground with the album’s motif of mallets and then fade peacefully into silence.

    In ‘Sibbe’, Aria Rostami has captured the devastating zeitgeist of our time in a manner that few would attempt. A must-listen experience for those disillusioned with post-rock, ambience and society as a whole. An unwavering portrayal of the depths of civilisation; a masterpiece and a haunting requiem.

    “Sibbe is dedicated to all those who have been killed or imprisoned for making art and to those for-bidden to document the cultures they live in.” – The album is out NOW and it is a unique, brilliant and imperative listen.

  2. Headphone Commute

    Aria Rostami has always been on my list of favorite artists. That is precisely why, back in December of 2012, I have asked him to contributed towards Headphone Commute's benefit compilation for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, titled, ... and darkness came. It's only fitting that Rostami's latest full length release on Audiobulb Records opens up with the same piece, "Delta" - it sets that tone of grayscale nostalgia, for things neither forgotten nor ever known. It's in that state of euphoric amnesia and slow drifting noir-fi that we become familiar with Sibbe, as it begins to open up throughout its first part, second and third.

    On the surface, the album is slightly ominous, strangely haunting and prophetic. Incongruent with the depiction of marble statues on its cover, the story in music is thermal, sincere and organic. It is a breathing document of lands far away, reached with our ears by means of obscurity, distorted perception and at times covert eavesdrop. Incorporating field recordings captured and transferred in secret from Iran, Rostami reflects on the land of his parents, and the invisible separation between two worlds (his birthplace being San Francisco), often cultural, mostly geographical, but always misunderstood.

    On the other side of the globe, Iran is a country that imprisons artists and a culture that, due to strict control of personal freedoms, is uncomfortable being recorded. Although there are many artists making modern art in Iran, distribution and performance within the country is very difficult and/or in many cases illegal. But, through modern technology, instances of events happening across the world can be digitized and transferred. [...] Sibbe is dedicated to all those who have been killed or imprisoned for making art and to those forbidden to document the cultures they live in.

    Beyond the conceptual representation of an idea behind Sibbe, Rostami explores textural soundscapes with recordings of world instruments, including turkish tar, melodica, and glockenspiel, intermixed with post-processed piano, violin, and vocals. The synths, although present, recede in the background, allowing for the abstruse scene to unfold on its own. "Vietnamoses" is particularly interesting, as the murky piece (ala Miasmah) suddenly drops on us the beat at three minutes in [you know, like that weird feeling when you're listening to an ambient track while browsing the net, and then open a page with a rhythmic track being streamed on auto-play].

    I want to take a quick moment to mention David Newman's Audiobulb Records, a label I don't often cover, but generally follow with every release. In particular, a few of the imprint's 2015 albums are definitely worth your attention, among them Newman's own release as Autistici titled Live At Electric Spring, Tatsuro Kojima's Refraction And Reflection, and Saigon's How To Cure Our Soul. And by all means, if you're not familiar with this Sheffield based label, see if you can at least pick up the Audiobulb Sampler (50-59) available as a "name your price" download via Bandcamp.

  3. Foreign Accents

    When it comes to giving artists from all different aesthetic sensibilities exploring digital processing, field recording, and various kinds of synthesis the wider exposure they deserve, Audiobulb is one of the premier hubs to dig through. Among a slew of wildly diverse new releases from around the world comes Sibbe, a jagged and richly-textured chunk of dark ambience that is informed by its author Aria Rostami’s sociopolitical identity as a second-generation Iranian immigrant living in the U.S. who has known political oppression all too well from the impact that it has had on his family and friends. Some of the field recordings that Rostami utilized on this release were made by his family in Iran, where such activity is looked upon with suspicion. Sibbe is dedicated to all who have been imprisoned or murdered for their art, and to those who are not permitted by their culture to document their world.

    Like possible influences Demdike Stare and The Haxan Cloak, Rostami makes emotive dark electronic sounds that drift in and out of a sense of rhythm. What is focal is the painstaking amount of attention paid to the emotional interaction of textures within the mix. The sound is constantly, violently shifting, constantly on the verge of collapsing on itself to reveal some new manifestation. Moreover, though Rostami has disclosed that violin, glockenspiel, melodica, Turkish tar, piano, and vocals were employed in a sound driven mostly by digital synth and sampling, in these mixes, the source of the voices at the peripheries are nearly always a little difficult to figure out– and with producers who make heavy usage of processing, that is how the finished creation is supposed to be, ideally! What all went into the creation of the volatile, mutating storm clouds of “Nosferatuva”? Truly compelling sound artists will want to keep one guessing when it comes to questions of origin– the only limitation that they should really feel beholden to is imagination itself.

    It’s a sinuous, dynamic sound that sends a crushing tone of despair and longing right at your center of gravity, regardless of whether you’re passing through the eye, the eyewall, or the diminishing outer chaos (see “Sibbe III”, “Nosferatuva”, and “Vietnamoses”, in that order…). At its lowest and its highest, it hits hard. Essential listening of the year for any and all deep into microsound, dark ambient atmospheres, and experimental techno sounds.

  4. Critical Masses

    Don’t for a minute think Aria Rostami’s Sibbe is another entry into the great wide expanse of electroacoustic/ambient music, because it’s way too simple to merely prop up the music on his 2015 Audiobulb album with cursory explanations like “Oh, neat, he did that there,” or “That tone is really cool!” No – step back, and realize that Rostami is an actual ambassador, a human being collecting and processing and redistributing culture from the far ends of the globe back to America, his San Francisco home in particular. He’s not interested in making music – well, he is, but bear with me – he’s more concerned with opening eyes that are absolutely shut to the wider frame of human existence. And he’s way more resourceful than just going for the political crowbar and prying open dormant consciousness – he worms his way into your brain through your ear canals, and in doing so invades the parts of your mind that are unguarded to cultural enlightenment.

    But first – yeah, I’m going to talk about the music. What intensely gorgeous stuff this is. Not only does Rostami have a great skill in manipulating his own instruments for tone and mood – he includes in his repertoire on this album piano, Turkish tar, melodica, glockenspiel, vocals, synthesizer, violin, and computer – but he also incorporates his playing with masterfully woven found sound pieces from the Eastern side of the planet. Indeed, Rostami allows his compositions to unfold and grow, and they expand like books or films, with patient and close listening rewarding those who hang on to the plot’s thread. One can barely even pinpoint the inspiration for much of the source material – its origins are often clouded within the wholly original expressions Rostami’s invoking.

    And that’s part of the point. Rostami is Iranian, living in San Francisco, and, as any sane person sick of the strict ’Murican perspective on music in this country, he aims to inject patterns and tones and structures from all over the world into his work, specifically Iran and Asian countries. Why? Because there’s precious little of that infiltration into this culture, and god knows we need it. So, wielding field recordings from Tehran, Kerman, and Taipei, Rostami conjures a modern classical melting pot that feels incredibly lived in, and wildly singular, not content to veer too far to the East or West. I’m going to say this right now – if there’s a better electroacoustic record that’s been released this year, I haven’t heard it.

    What’s wild is how Rostami connects with his Iranian heritage here, and Americans will not understand that it’s actually dangerous for artists living in Tehran and elsewhere in that country to express themselves. (Why don’t we get closer to this? Because we’re insane and xenophobic and we’ve been indoctrinated over the years through bizarre one-sided media with anti-Iranian racist sentiment. We have clearly lost our way.) Indeed, Rostami notes on his website that “some of the recordings sent could have gotten [the source] in trouble with the the law or otherwise.” For the sake of field recording for art! Thus, the album is “dedicated to all those who have been killed or imprisoned for making art and to those forbidden to document the cultures they live in.” So far we seem to be OK here in the ol’ US of A, but who knows how long that will last. While it does, we need to celebrate artists like Rostami, and works of art like Sibbe, and reach across borders and cultures to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of our wider world. We are all part of a human culture, regardless of ethnic and political boundaries. It’s about time we acted like it.

  5. Merchants Of The Air

    Art is often something misunderstood, frowned upon and, in some tragic cases, even strictly forbidden.  Cultural differences mean other opinions about art and about what is possible and what is not.  Over the years, many people have been imprisoned and even murdered because of their music, their drawings or their performances.  Yet, there are so many brilliant artists to be found allover the world, some of them expressing themselves while they're constantly being treatened to death. 

    This album is dedicated to those people.

    Aria Rostami hails from San Fransisco (US).  As the child of immigrants from Iran he realised that his thoughts about his home country grew from the opinions of the Iranian people in his environment.  His view upon Persian culture was different from the whole picture and in fact, so is ours.  So he took on a very American approach to his own art, by using technology which is available almost everywhere.  Internet and smartphones became the foundations for this record.

    'Sibbe I, II and III' are processed field recordings, sent to him from Tehran, Kerman and Taipei and enhanced with piano, Turkish tar, melodica, glockenspiel, vocals, synthesizer, violin and computer.  Along with the other tracks on this album, the result is an amazing journey through different cultures, influences and musical styles.  Musically, I would place this album in the experimental ambient section, reminding me of acts like Lustmord, Raime, Zoviet France and several others.

    Although the tracks are calm, soothing even, there's still a strange, unsettling overtone.  This grabs the attention of the listener.  'Delta' for instance, constists of several layers of soundscapes and drones, accompanied with eerie noises here and there.  After that, the 'Sibbe' trilogy sets in, combining that approach with those processed field recordings.  The result is amazing and even a bit otherworldly at times.  These three songs fit perfectly together, even if the original sounds come from different places.

    'Nosferatuva' is a lot darker than its predecessors, driving on a grinding drone and incorporating several haunted vocal samples.  Here the album takes a dive into the massive world of dark ambient and becomes a mesmerizing experience.  'Vietnamoses' goes back to experimenting with strange electro-acoustic sounds.  Right before the track becomes too strange, deep beats appear, giving the whole a nice drive and turning it into my favorite track on this album.

    'Crwthrúd' closes the album, again in quite an experimental electro-acoustic manner, this time starting with eerie violin sounds and never letting that weird atmosphere go.  In some way it's compareable to an alien lullaby, or a broken children mobile.  Fact remains, it's a great track again, like all of them on 'Sibbe'.  I'm quite impressed by this work, and certainly by the amount of variation.  So all I can do to end this review, is recommend checking it out if you're an experimental ambient fan, whatever piece of this bizarre planet you're from....

  6. Gonzo Circus

    San Franciscan artist of Iranian descent, Aria Rostami has just released Sibbe (Audiobulb), and album about technology in the information age and its influence on cultural identity.

     

    Here’s what he has to say about it:

    The “Delta” video centers around heavy digital manipulation similar to a TV with a bad satellite signal. The source material comes from Shakila’s “Emshab Dar Sar Shoori Daram” (Tonight I have joy in my mind) music video. I always liked this video in particular because the music and visuals reminded me of David Lynch. Anyone who has watched Iranian satellite TV is familiar with the low budget sets, green screens, computer graphics and in some cases signal scrambles from poor satellite service. Growing up this was one of the primary media sources that informed me of Iranian culture which was, albeit, a minimal view.”

    “It wasn’t until I was older and had both interest and access to a wider range of Iranian media that I realized what a small view satellite TV was of the culture. Growing up watching satellite TV I wasn’t an Iranian-American looking at Iran, I was a member of an Iranian Diaspora in America watching material made by other members of the Diaspora. Reexamining this was a part of a larger rediscovery of my parent’s, family’s, and my own world that came with getting older and delving into the information age of internet and computers. On the other side of the fence, satellite TV is illegal in Iran although many Iranians still watch it. The Iranian government will sometimes scramble the satellite signal and create a phenomenon colloquially called “parazit” or parasite. Small Media produced a report called “Satellite Jamming In Iran: A War Over Airwaves” that is available on the PBS website or through an online search if you are interested in further reading. The video can either be viewed as a metaphor for a culture being lost in translation like it was for me or a more literal statement about Government censorship.”

    The Song
    “Delta” was originally released on Headphone Commute’s “…And Darkness Came” compilation. All the songs on the compilation were supposed to be somehow related to storms and the proceeds went to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. The name of the song came from the movement of the piece… it starts off like a single focused stream and eventually distorts into something much larger. However, the song also feels like a storm hitting so I gave the track to the compilation. “Delta” is the black sheep on the album “Sibbe” as it was recorded years before the rest of the album and fits on the album aesthetically but not conceptually. The album focuses on the global transfer of digital media and communication, America’s cultural melting pot, and voyeurism through technology. By matching the song with the video it contextualizes the piece into the greater theme of the album. “Delta” can represent nature acting on nature through storms or splitting rivers, nature acting on humans through hurricanes, humans acting on nature through the effects of climate change, or humans acting on humans through either censorship or civil disobedience.”

  7. Chain D.L.K.

    As stated in the liner notes, this album is based on the relationship between America and Iran from the viewpoint on the artist's status of being a child of immigrants from Iran. This is related to the concern that his viewpoint is based on how Iran is narrated from other immigrants or media. So, this album is partly based on field recordings sent to Aria Rostami from Tehran or other Iranian cities and it's a demonstration of how technology can connect different cultures.

    The gentle texture of "Delta" introduces the listener in a sonic environment centered on little bells suddenly covered by noise samples until their return in the final part of the song. "Sibbe" features recordings of folk iranian music, or so it seems. "Sibbe II" is developed from layers of samples and "Sibbe III" is a static soundscape featuring small distant beats. The sequence of the three part of this track reveals how some sounds are culturally associated to media's vision of middle east. The first part of "Nosferatuva" is based on a sample played as it's a punctuation mark while his second part is a quiet but dark soundscape. "Vietnamoses" is based on field recordings used as an introduction of a sort of oriental beat or the occidental perception of it. "Crwthrúd" closes this release reworking that sound of string instruments mostly known to be present in the OST of some iranian movie.

    This is a release which reminds how sound is bound to some cultural codes of habit based on what is absent in another one. So, this is not only an enjoyable release but also an important one. It's really worth a listen.

  8. Beach Sloth

    Brittle and beautiful, Aria Rostami’s “Sibbe” explores the beauty within digital stutters. Mystical at times the sounds flutter by offering fascinating immersive textures. Throughout the album Aria Rostami goes deep into these sounds refusing to simply settle on one interpretation. While these sounds have organic origins they are obscured by the careful tweaking and working of each element creating a hybrid neither fully digital nor fully acoustic. Somewhere in between they rest in the balance. 

    Delicate like a snowflake “Delta” takes on unique hues. For a while the piece lingers about in airiness before the denser deeper frequencies begin to overtake it. By far the highlight of the album is the meticulous three part suite of “Sibbe”. “Sibbe” introduces the section exploring its spacious surroundings. Melodies glisten in the song’s sunny optimism. Gradually building ever larger the song enter cavernous almost celebratory space with a strangely percussive element located far off in the distance. Far more anxious is the tense work of “Sibbe II” which refuses to settle down on a single element cascading like a waterfall. On “Sibbe III” the sound takes on a subdued hushed tone akin to a field recording. Creating a unique otherworldly mood is the amorphous “Vietnamoses”. By the time the percussion enters the mix it is a welcome anchor for the swirling dreamy sound. “Crwthrúd” closes the album off on a respectful somber note. 

    Glimpses of entire worlds are found throughout the geometry of Aria Rostami’s stunning compositions on the masterful “Sibbe”.

  9. Music Won't Save You

    Mentre la scena ambient-drone iraniana si sta affermando tra le più vivide e interessanti a livello internazionale attraverso linguaggi sonori che trascendono i confini geografici, un’operazione parzialmente inversa è condotta da Aria Rostami, musicista americano di origini iraniane, nelle sette complesse tracce di “Sibbe”.

    Innanzitutto perché il lavoro conserva elementi della terra d’origine di Rostami, sotto forma di una serie di field recordings pervenutigli da Teheran e da altre città asiatiche, e anche in quanto il messaggio da esso veicolato, prescindendo dalle parole, attiene a quella libertà di espressione artistica che in quei luoghi continua a conoscere limitazioni e repressioni. Oltre il valore simbolico, “Sibbe” traccia un composito panorama sonoro, incentrato su synth e filtraggi elettronici ma costellato da frammenti di pianoforte, glockenspiel e organi, che aggiungono screziature trasfigurate alla massa incrementale di drone luminosi che costituisce il cuore del lavoro. Cuore che coincide con le tre parti della title track, percorsa da fremiti irregolari, come l’iniziale “Delta”, nel suo percorso verso astrazioni sempre più plumbee che trovano il loro esito nella claustrofobia di “Nosferatura”.

    Nell’universo di modulata stasi di Rostami non mancano tuttavia non solo saltuari clangori e battiti estemporanei, come colpi d’ala colti al volo, ma soprattutto pulsazioni elettroniche prominenti come quelle che scuotono i dieci minuti di “Vietnamoses”, contrappunto ideale di una densa ambience che trascende luoghi e confini con la forza visionaria di un suono tanto impervio quanto puro.

  10. So What

    Differenti istanze culturali che si fondono alla ricerca di un punto di vista quanto più oggettivo, sviluppato attraverso i contemporanei sistemi di comunicazione, che riescono a veicolare informazioni da ogni parte del pianeta, anche e soprattutto da quelle regioni sottoposte a controlli severi. È una ricerca precisa quella che muove la creazione dei paesaggi sonori di “Sibbe”, complesso e affascinante lavoro di Aria Rostami, musicista americano di origini iraniane, pubblicato da Audiobulb Records.

    Il disco, dedicato a tutti quegli artisti che hanno subito ogni sorta di ritorsione a causa della loro attività creativa, è un concentrato di suoni elettroacustici e stratificazioni sintetiche capaci di creare un universo oscuro dominato da una calma dai toni inquietanti e attraversato da una tensione latente.

    L’iniziale “Delta” trasporta istantaneamente in queste atmosfere dense di droni graffiati da schegge luminose e frammenti rumorosi, introducendo al nucleo centrale costituito dai tre capitoli che danno il titolo all’album. Qui la fusione tra mondi e culture diverse diventa esplicita attraverso l’uso di field recordings catturati in quel Medio Oriente di cui Rostami cerca di catturare l’essenza, liberata dall’informazione parziale. L’equilibrio e la fusione tra le parti è la costante di questa terna di composizioni che alterna momenti più quieti ad altri più convulsi. In “Nosferatura” tutto diventa grave e l’incedere è sottolineato da una sorta di costante interferenza. “Vietnamoses” segna un ulteriore cambio attraverso la comparsa di decise pulsazioni ritmiche che prendono il sopravvento dopo il vorticoso inizio dominato da strumenti acustici e inserti vocali. Il viaggio si chiude con “Crwthrúd” e la sua lenta e obliqua calma introdotta dal suono dilatato e sofferente dei violini.

    È un mondo complesso quello creato da Aria Rostami, capace di catturare l’attenzione attraverso la compresenza di elementi apparentemente in contrasto che qui si amalgamano formando un’unità imprevista.