9T Antiope, or Sara Bigdeli Shamloo and Nima Aghiani, continue building a name for themselves in the universe of experimental music both in their home country of Iran and in France, where they are now based. Harmistice is their behemoth of a debut on Hallow Ground and arguably their most significant work to date. Featuring a long-distance collaboration with Tehran-based composer Siavash Amini, the four-track album tangles acoustic and synthetic sounds for a brutal sensory experience that denotes the perils of war. 9T Antiope has consolidated their newfound safe distance with firsthand experience to create sonic disjunction, which is initially a challenge to bear. If given the chance, however, the ambiguity of Harmistice will echo as true and its inherent beauty will shine as genuine.
A piercing electric note kicks off “Blue as in Bleeding”, an expression of angst, irritation or looming disaster, followed by electric thunder that grows and sweeps, and a series of unnerving gunshot bursts. By 2:29, the guts of the album are first torn out for all to hear: Shamloo and her voice. Void of emotion, often detached and overly polished, the vocals are suffocating in their precision and disagreement with the general sense of the track and its background dissonance. Indeed, it seems fingernails on a chalkboard would be easier to handle than this.
But as the next two tracks play out, “Purple as in Pain” and “Black as in Burst”, with their violins and distortion, fear and bombs that detonate in close proximity, Shamloo’s voice transcends. No longer a nuisance, no longer vexatious, her lyrics of distress, through operatic song or spoken word, invest in the listener, laying upon them an ultimate purpose — to bear witness.
“Silver as in Silence” circles back to the high-pitched hum of the opening track and concludes 9T Antiope’s 28-minute war between the real and the unreal. Shamloo’s vocals are the secret weapon, at first awkward, almost to the point of physical discomfort, but create a world of authentic suffering exemplified through a divorce from harmony.
Faint of heart, you have been warned. (Roma Fluxe)