Earlier this year, we predicted a trend toward darker music, and Siavash Animi‘s TAR is certainly a step in this direction. Seeking to translate fear into sound, the Iranian artist covers traditional instruments (Nima Aghiani’s violin, Pouya Pour-Amin’s double bass) with thick, angry drone. In the same manner as reason is drowned out by alarmism or polite discourse by name-calling, the cloud of unease descends on the album in unrelenting fashion.
Or is there another way to interpret this? Perhaps one might note that those instruments remain audible despite the efforts to subdue them; or that they seek harmonic frequencies in order to work with the drone, rather than against it. If applied to political dialogue, this optimistic interpretation might reveal a path through the thickets. Amini’s stated purpose is to “explore the fragile tensions between an individual and a collective subconscious” ~ the listener’s challenge is to sort out which is which. Are we afraid because our society is afraid? Are our fears affecting others? Is this a closed loop?
An example: today I went to the local deli, whose television is always on, repeating the same news every 20 minutes. A motorist had just driven into a group of people. “It’s a terror attack!” a customer said, going table to table to emphasize his point. I just wanted a tuna sandwich, but I felt compelled to say, “it just looks like a terrible accident.” “No, it’s not,” he insisted, smiling, before heading into the parking lot to tell others.
Which is more dangerous, the violence, the fear of violence, or the fear that leads to more violence?
So here’s this album ~ TAR. A dark album, to be sure, but not without its points of light. Iran has had its share of upheaval in recent years. Siavash Amini has continued to make art in the midst of chaos. In a way, even his darkness seems like light, should one approach his music in this manner. From another angle, we have a choice. I choose to hear the strings.
TAR presents the idea that mind pollution can turn serenity into paranoia. Aghiani’s violin seems at times to play an elegy for lost causes, lost buildings, lost people. But it also sings of what could be. Nightmare are contagious, but so are dreams. The set’s premiere at this year’s CTM Festival in Berlin fell under the banner theme “Fear Anger Love”. In this era of populism and paranoia, we can curl up, we can rail, or we can hold fast to kinder ideals. The festival asks “how great a capacity we have for integration and resilience”. The album presents clarity and distortion, treasure and tar, and asks, what will you mine from these shafts of sound? This open-ended question is a personal, social and political metaphor, the answer as yet unrevealed. (Richard Allen)