Unraveling The Meticulous Sonic Architecture Of Siavash Amini’s Music
Image credit: Aram Tahmasebi
There used to be these stores that Siavash Amini would visit back in the late 90s or so. This was around the time that the shift from tapes and CDs to MP3s was beginning. Amini had already been introduced to rock music through the pirate tape culture in Iran — growing up in the port city of Bandar Abbas, he recalls travelling to Tehran to exchange pirated tapes and bootlegs.“Trading, recording, exchanging collections,” he says. “And you always find out the strangest stuff in there; all these strange bands that are not metal, but somehow found their way into the collection.” When the shift to MP3s started in earnest, many people didn’t have Internet connections. So there’d be all these stores which would accept a list of artists, and download everything from the list and give it to you. Amini worked his way from rock to prog to extreme metal, before stumbling accidentally on to the ECM catalogue and the minimalist jazz works put out by the label. Electronic music happened soon after, as he discovered trip-hop and tried introducing those elements into his metal band at the time. Unsuccessfully, he laughs. They were drifting into post-metal territories, unaware of the actual genre itself.
Today, Amini is a recognised experimental musician who has played an important role in the Iranian experimental music movement over the last few years. His style is a meticulously crafted synthesis of ambient sonic textures and dissonance and noise, with the latter elements slowly finding their way into his work more prominently of late. Amini’s most recent album, ‘FORAS’, came out last month — a four-song meditation in the interplay between the external and the internal. It’s the second part of a trilogy he’s been working on: ‘TAR’ came out last year, while the next release, ‘SERUS’, comes out in 2019. Through ‘FORAS’, which means “outside” in Latin, there’s an undercurrent of darkness and night as a symbolic force, and what it stands for — how night is, in a way, a metaphor for sorrow. “The thing is,” he says, “the way that the collective unconscious and the individual unconscious come together are very interesting to me. Especially how, like, cities and spaces can shape your mentality, how the city shapes the way you perceive it. When trauma happens, when something bad happens in society, that wave of sorrow exists outside, and it comes to you in certain ways. It’s a collective thing; different people feel differently about that part of the city or about life.”
Amini’s approach to writing is meticulous and organised. It’s scholarly in a way — it’s sort of like sonic architecture — with each work of his centered around a theme or a concept, aligned with a strong philosophical undercurrent. Every sound in there, he explains, exists for a specific purpose. For instance, ‘TAR’ had a lot of live string arrangements which he manipulated digitally: “TAR,” he says, “was about fear. I had certain things in mind to start with. I’m not doing sounds for the sake of sounds. It was about collective fear, and it had to have more adrenaline, a more layered approach. It had to be more harmonic, and I needed the last tension release in there. That’s how fear works in your mind; there’s a release.” ‘FORAS’, on the other hand, is driven via field recordings he’s made, as well as shivering ambient synths directing the music. “For ‘FORAS’, it was a slow-moving… something out of a funeral, after a trauma. Something that unfolds when you’re in that space.” The music, thus, remains more abstract — a song like ‘The Beclouding’, he tells me, is actually based on 10 different frequencies.
It’s just the way his mind works, he feels. Amini started off playing classical guitar, and even began studying music formally before dropping out. But he continued to study it on his own, and he feels that the grounding in classical traditions and forms somewhat informs his approach today, even to the radical experiments that he often puts out. It allows him to step back and approach a work with a broader perspective; it’s what gives him discipline as an artist. The way he listens to music, too, is controlled and structured. “A lot of the stuff I do reflects what I’m listening to at that point, what I’m interested in. I plan my listening. I have two to three hours in the day so I can listen to specific stuff and analyse it,” he says.
Amini has a lot on his plate these days. He has just returned to Tehran, where he’s based on, after a spate of gigs in Berlin. Aside from his solo work, Amini also tends to collaborate with other artists often; for this, he ends up looking for people who can challenge him creatively. The third in his trilogy releases in February next year, while he has a bunch of collaborations that’s he has been busy with. There’s one with Iranian duo 9t Antiope, which is close to completion. He’s been working with French drone band Saåad. And there’s also a project with Iranian composer and pianist Hooshyar Khayam, which is the only collaboration he’s doing based on Iranian music. “It’s classical renditions of some folk music through electro-acoustics and live processing,” he explains. Not just that; Amini has already begun work on another solo album, slated for 2021, for which he’s been doing plenty of field recordings.
written by Akhil Sood
images courtesy of the artist