A new one from the most intense and hardcore mixer of all time, Sacred Horror In Design sees Sote follow-up the unbelievable and unprecedented Hardcore Sounds from Tehran. This record comes as a commission for Sote, who is joined by Arash Bolouri and Behrouz Pashaei, the trio bridging juxtapositions of electronics and Iranian classical music in divergent patterns. Sote left many of the instruments played on the record unprocessed against their electronic counterparts.
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Ata Ebtekar aka Sote really is in a league of his own. In the fifteen years that have passed since his first record ‘Electric Deaf’ on Warp, he hasn’t exactly released an enormous body of work - clearly favouring quality over quantity. In that time, he’s had some great stuff out on Fluorescent Grey’s Record Label Records, Rabih Beaini’s Morphine Records and more recently Ge-stell, Repitch Recordings and Opal Tapes. Now he returns to Opal Tapes for what I think is the first CD release on the label. The format seems to be a carefully considered choice for the music - the high resolution offered, perfect for Sote’s pristine sounds.
‘Sacred Horror In Design’ is a piece that was commissioned by CTM Festival this year, and this disc is composed of recordings from various performances of the piece. The artist drew parallels with the festival's theme of ‘Fear Anger Love’ with his own childhood during and after the Iranian Revolution. Think of those three emotions ‘Fear Anger Love’ as experienced by a child, at that time, in that part of the world, articulated into sound retrospectively. The result is a sort of chapter in a sonic autobiography, articulated with a truly unique musical language. Taking Iranian traditional/classical ensemble as source material and processing and respectfully manipulating those sounds, shaping them into new forms, sometimes keeping them intact with only minor enhancements. The album has a heavy emotional impact - at its most subdued, I can picture a sad, small boy walking through dusty streets with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Other moments feel confused and chaotic but there are also moments of joy and celebration.
There’s nothing contemporary that I can think of to compare this album to - it stands alone as something genuinely original. The only other record working in a similar realm of traditional Persian instruments meets electronics is Dariush Dolat-Shahi’s 1985 ‘Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar’ LP that came out on Folkways. However, Sote is doing some way heavier processing using FM and Granular synthesis. Masterful stuff from a unique voice in electronic music.
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