Siavash Amini – Till Human Voices Wake Us (Umor Rex, 2014)

 

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I’ve decided that Siavash Amini’s latest album is going to be my test subject and for the first time, for everyone elses convenience, I’ll be adding the relevant record label to the review title from now on. And let me tell you, Umor Rex Recordings are very lucky to have signed on Amini because his latest Ambient journey in Till Human Voices Wake Us is incredible. Not to be confused with the Helena Bonham Carter film of the same name, it’s an allusion to the influences of poet T.S Eliot on the general atmosphere and context
of the record.

Now I’m no expert on the writings of Eliot but I’ll be looking up the relevant poems as we go along; each track title referencing some snippet of text or character within one of his works. “The Phoenician” opens the record, a reference to the sailor in “The Waste Land”, a poem which is brought up time and again in some capacity through the album as a whole. Something of that oceanic sensibility seems to come through here in the echoic dribblings of running water and ethereal tones that float through the mix in a haze of reverb, as though underwater. There’s a quiet energy to the buried field recordings submerged here, like a ghostly memory fragment reborn. “Silent Seas” (originating from the same poem as the album title “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) continues this refined aqueous energy with sparse and melancholic guitars draped in lush but brief drones and skittering, piercing electronica. Slowly it becomes too deep to see the glittering sunlight above and slips into the dark abyss, losing all hope as it descends.

“The Waste Land” is referenced again in followup “The Violet Hour”, but it’s less aquatic and more aerial in this, the longest track of the album. It’s a rich sunset he defines here, carving sky and clouds out of morose tuffets of stable background drone and flutters of those more piercing electronic notes as they flicker in and out of life. The original instruments are lost to the processing in the same way that the clouds of the twilight sky are redefined by new, rich hues of gold and red rather than white and grey, but they are the ominous precursors of the sad and dark night to follow. “Unreal City” seems to want to take a very different direction from what we’ve heard so far, removing the sparse and evocative Ambient and replacing it with minimal solo guitar and ominous rumbling percussion as the night slipstreams in rapidly and transforms the urban landscape into a mysterious mass of streetlights and shadowed skyscrapers. Some beauteous drone notes embrace it for what it is in the closing moments, a quiet and dark cousin of itself.

“Shade Without Colour” is a line from “The Hollow Men”, and an enigmatic one at that. Amini mirrors the absence of this unknown but necessary quality by spinning the darkest and most empty piece of the album, a dark void of softly ebbing and flowing guitar drones reverberating in the emptiness, supplemented by rushes of light glitch and machine like noise, like it’s trying to quantify and decode that which is missing and refill the space unsuccessfully. So much is said in such a frightfully minimalistic piece, it’s gorgeous. “Corridors and Dreams” arrives after a slight pause, a reflection, and seems to have no analogue.I’m not well versed enough in Eliot’s material to work out what it references but it continues much in the same vein as its precursor although with a definite absence that’s replaced with light and shimmering notes rather than the stifling blackness. The dreams stand out as stark points of glimmering synth notes, distant and unreachable through the lo-fi mists of the cool guitar drones.

Could “Yelena” be a subtle hint towards fellow widower Yelena Bulgakov, third wife of Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov? The woman entrusted to maintain her husband’s legacy through his work in the same capacity that Eliot’s widow Valerie was also? Perhaps there’s room for that interpretation; there’s something vast and inherently depressing within the piece, evolving from that gentle solo guitar into a more imposing and challenging piece that seems to either stutter into life or stumble into death as waves of clipped noise push the back of the drone that tries so hard to stay its course but which ultimately fades into nothingness and we’re left sat in silence to ponder. And so we end almost as we started in “The Chair She Sat In”, once more from “The Waste Land” of which Amini has drawn so much inspiration. There is something deeply moving in the nostalgic airs of this last piece; a tragic and faded light now shines upon a world one woman emptier than before and everything is all the worse for it. There’s a hope that maybe she wont be forgotten if we repeat the same cycling snippets of drone enough, but of course it’s not enough, it’s never enough, and ultimately the track dies its own slow and protracted death into the unknown.

As I say I’m not the most intimate with Eliot’s work and I’ve tried my best to get a sense of the context behind these conceptual pieces, so my apologies if I’m off the mark somewhat with my interpretations, but I don’t think there is an overwhelming need to be familiar with the poems referenced here; there’s enough beautiful music content and it’s so well charted throughout that you can enjoy your own musical journey without a backstory and instead supplement your own rather than feel empathetic. I like this album a lot; it’s simple and wonderfully conceptual and well actualised with clear themes and theme riffs where necessary.

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