[album review] sohrab: a hidden place

December 19, 2010

Album cover for Hidden Place by Sohrab

Sohrab: A Hidden Place (Touch, 2010)
£2.52 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £5.99 from [Boomkat]

Tehran-born Sohrab Karimi Asli’s work occupies that middle space between music and sound, a no-man’s land that reflects the dispossession he experiences alongside other artists in his homeland. In A Hidden Place, the 26 year old explores hitherto unheard places, rituals and lives by fusing highly processed field recordings with the lightest strokes of musical colour.

Susanna is typically serene: alternating drones, awash with reverb and phase, sit on top of a gentle rhythm punctuated by water drops and gurgles. It recalls Biosphere and, a little more distantly perhaps, the Aphex Twin of Selected Ambient Works Volume II.

A female voice in song, a cockerel, fragments of dialogue and assorted other scratches, bumps, drips and crackles comprise the second track, Somebody. A gently clanking machine and ghostly ambient chords afford the piece a coherence it would otherwise lack, making it an affecting document of the interior and exterior life of the eponymous protagonist. An album highlight.

Another highlight is the title track. A hollow, multi-frequency humming sound, shifted by unseen forces, forms the backdrop to a remarkable ritual. Male voices chant in call and response before yielding to a deep, rumbling, metallic soundscape – incredibly atmospheric and foreboding.

But A Hidden Place (the album) demands listening to as a whole, rather than cherry-picking the highlights. You wonder how your imagination could have travelled so far in the 40 minutes it takes to listen to it.

Better still, download the bonus track No One Really Knows from the Touch website (under “Audio Library” in the right-hand column, or listen below), to extend your journey by twelve minutes and countless miles.

close to 94 rating: ★★★★★★★

This review is part of close to 94‘s [emusic club], which reviews one album from the eMusic catalogue every week from a selection refreshed every month.

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