For some time now, we have been singing the praises of a collective of artists from Iran who have consistently been putting out some stunning ambient & electronic recordings. Several of them, namely Siavash Amini, Hesam Ohadi (Idlefon), and Arash Akbari, have gotten together to launch a new label they call Bitrot. The inaugural release is not only a superb record in its own right, but it also sets a benchmark for the label’s aesthetic and launches the “Rekonstrukt” series which takes a cereberal approach to the way artists rework each other’s music.
“In order to reconstruct a piece you first have to take it apart and engage it in a way that with its destruction you bring a new creation to life, in which something from the original still lives…By channeling a piece of music through different imaginations you will find out that it has many hubs and nodes that were hidden in the original. In this series we try to explore this idea by letting artists find these hubs and nodes that make up a work and have them rearranged. Then you can see the work in the light of other creative minds, generating a vast network of musical landscapes connected by an invisible line that is the original music’s destruction.”
Volume one features a fine choice of both source material and collaborators, bringing together Umchunga, Pjusk, Arash Akbari, Ghost And Tape, Darren Harper, Cétieu, Darren McClure, and Dag Rosenqvist to reconstruct the music from Night Scenes by Tegh, which was originally released on Inner Ocean in January 2014 (an ST top ten drone pick for that year). It is fascinating to see the different approaches each artist took and how they managed to assert their own unique voices while remaining true to the brooding, threnodial tone and melodic constructs of Tegh’s compositions.
Umchunga finds air vents in ‘Crossing’ and floods them with warm currents to lift the piece into the jet stream while layers of choral voicings spin up to almost screaming intensity thrusting it forward with relentless momentum. Pjusk gives a new impetus to ‘They Were From Somewhere Cold’, flushing out a full-fledged bass line while giving it a smooth, icy sheen ornamented with crystalline tones and punctuated bursts of trumpet.
Arash Akbari and Cétieu each take a more nuanced approach to their selections to devastatingly emotional effect. Akbari imbues the wistful ‘Autumn’ with a lush expansiveness that amplifies its vivid melancholy while Cétieu’s gentle touch on ‘The Birds Are Singing On a Tree Without Leaves’ blooms in deeper hues and radiates with haunting beauty.
Two tracks get a double treatment, further demonstrating their malleable nature and latent potential. On ‘Down’ we see Darren Harper almost invert the original, pushing the somber melody to background and bringing the textural elements and field recordings prominently to the fore, while Darren McClure digs up sunken treausres from its subaqueous and sedimentary layers. On ‘Conn’, Ghost and Tape explores multitudinous textures and tiny nodules in a muted electroacoustic interpretation while Dag Rosenqvist takes it in a completely different direction, teasing out a pulsing beat and surprising brightness in the melody as he masterfully steers it into techno territory.
Without being familiar with the original material, one can still thoroughly enjoy this as a absorbing and cohesive ambient journey, but it becomes a more engaging and immersive experience when attention is given to the nuances of each reconstruction. I prefer to enjoy the best of both worlds and recommend listening several times through to simply enjoy the music and then again side by playing the original tracks followed by the corresponding reworks.
[Rekonstrukt-1] Tegh – Night Scenes is currently a digital only release. It comes with a digital booklet of striking analog photos of Iran’s southern seascapes by photographer Sadaf Azadehfar, one to match each track on the album.