Various Artists - Visions of Darkness (In Iranian Contemporary Music [Cold Spring Records - 2017]Cold Spring's release last fall of Visions of Darkness is an eye opening experience. Not a country well known for their musical scene, Iran might as well have been a musical black hole for Western audiences. Music is an amazing outlet for the creative mind, so it's wonderful to hear and feel what's going on at a personal level in Iran, at least among the electronic/experimental crowd. Visions of Darkness (In Iranian Contemporary Music) is a wonderful document of a really interesting scene, and hopefully this will put more ears on the musicians captured by this compilation.
Visions of Darkness gives the listener a hearty sample of contemporary Iranian music. With twenty-one songs over two discs, one is exposed to a variety of moods, tones, and vibes. A lot more restrained than I was expecting, Cold Spring's compilation puts forth meaningful, well thought out, and engaging electronic music. Not in the dance sense, mind you, but ranging from airy ambient pieces (Anunnaki Signal's "Father") to almost video game exercises in synth work (S.S.M.P's "The Blue Chasm") to light, hypnotic industrial (Saint Abdullah's "Unforgotten Promises"). With so much quality product on display, and a well compiled play list, it's hard to break from the flow of music on hand and single out specific tracks. However, there are some highlights that I would be remiss in not pointing out. Light and contemplative, "Wherefore The Worm Universe" combines lightly oscillating synth drones and bright, thoughtful lines on top for nine minutes of watery reflection. Feeling almost like something out of a digitized samurai film. Limen's offering to Visions of Darkness helps to emphasize the wide variety of sounds on display. The final two tracks on Visions further expand the scope of the release and underline the beauty of restraint and near minimalism in ambient works. Both "Downtown Valley" by Downtown of HongKong and "Tehran Moonlight" by Mehdi Behbudi & Vahide Sistaani continue the growth set forth by the previous 19 tracks and evoke an open world of sound for the listener. Wonderful synths and interesting spoken passages connect the artist's soul, heart, and mind with the listener for a thoughtful experience via sound.
While Iranian contemporary music is fairly undiscovered turf for many music fans, Cold Spring's compilation, Visions of Darkness (In Iranian Contemporary Music), is a very well done release and an enlightening sample of what a rich sonic world lies half a world away. Opening this window, Cold Spring has introduced these near hidden gems to the world, and will hopefully continue to shine light on the artists represented on this release. I hope that this is first in a series of eye opening documents on underrepresented musical cultures.Paul Casey