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Nadia Tehran - Dozakh: All Lovers Hell Music Album Reviews

The debut album from the Iranian-Swedish artist offers a fascinatingly dark take on romantic love, filled with images of violence and devastation.
Dozakh: All Lovers Hell, the debut album from Iranian-Swedish artist Nadia Tehran, begins with a recording of her immigrant father, Ali Kardar, saying that he’s not afraid of death. He’s in the middle of describing a near-fatal experience during his time as a soldier in the Iran-Iraq war. “I wake up with unbelievable pain that isn’t just pain from my legs, it’s pain through my whole soul,” he recounts in Swedish. “I didn’t even realize that my leg was gone.” And with that harrowing image, Tehran sets up Dozakh, an album examining emotional purgatory and devastation in all its forms.

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Kelly Moran - Origin EP Music Album Reviews

The New York pianist’s stripped-back companion piece to her electronic-tinged 2018 album Ultraviolet is an engrossing ode to the act of creation.

Kelly Moran’s Ultraviolet grew out of a period of writer’s block. Her usual method of composition—painstakingly plotting every note on staff paper, as much a mathematical process as an intuitive one—felt stiff. So she did something that not many classical players often do: She set aside her scores and began improvising. The recording sessions yielded lyrical, free-flowing rhapsodies couched in the unpredictable sonics of the prepared piano—liquid meditations crosscut with doorbell buzz and felted whispers. Captivated by the results, she ended up studying those tapes for two months, transcribing her improvisations, and finally re-recording them. Then, she spent three more months editing and processing the new material, layering it with synthesizers and electronics, to achieve Ultraviolet’s final form: lush, mercurial, almost hologram-like in its flickering dimensions.


The Origin EP takes a step back from that dreamlike vantage: Most of its tracks are unedited documents of her initial, searching improvisations. The seven-song, 36-minute EP amounts to a fascinating snapshot of Moran’s process—a chance to eavesdrop, to perch behind the piano bench and witness her feeling her way out of a creative cul-de-sac.

“Reflexive Music (Autowave)” establishes the record’s skeletal palette and contemplative mood. Where its Ultraviolet counterpart, “Autowave,” was wrapped in cathedral-grade organ buzz, here the denuded piano has nothing to hide its battered timbre and detuned harmonies, which take on the tarnished-metal qualities of Indonesian gamelan. It’s striking how closely the re-recorded piano of the Ultraviolet version resembles this original improvisation—clearly, Moran was meticulous in re-scoring her initial flash of inspiration. But what’s even more interesting is how the quality of the piece changes once the electronic swaddling is stripped away: The tone is no longer grand or regal, but delicate, bruised, brittle as birds’ bones.

“Water Music (Piano Solo)” and “Night Music” also come from those initial improv sessions, and they share the exploratory quality of the opener. Worrying their way up and down the scale, treated notes periodically toss off the errant bong of a busted grandfather clock; the sustain pedal scatters high frequencies like mist off a waterfall. Moran recorded the pieces in her parents’ home on suburban Long Island in high summer, and if you listen closely, you can hear the faint chirping of insects in the background of “Night Music”—a fitting counterpoint to the rattle and buzz of her own instrument.

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A few pieces here date from different sessions. “Halogen (Una Corda)” is a gorgeous, Debussy-like fantasia on a comparatively untreated piano. “Love Birds, Night Birds, Devil-Birds” is a recent improvisation created to accompany a video installation by Moran’s friend Cassie McQuater; recorded with electronic delay on the piano, it takes on some of the textural and harmonic fullness of Ultraviolet. Best of all might be “Helix (Piano Solo).” It’s actually the very same recording heard on Ultraviolet’s “Helix,” but stripped of the synthesized bass that fills out the more elaborate rendition. In this bare form, it reveals a kind of dogged minimalism, carving lines into the floor as it paces back and forth.

If Ultraviolet represented an attempt to freeze the act of inspiration, examine it, and ultimately embellish it—like painting atop an X-ray transparency—Origin drinks directly from that unmediated rush of wonder. More than just a glimpse of Moran’s methods, these improvisatory pieces prove engrossing in their own right. In fact, in their own quiet, unguarded way, they might even make for a more rewarding listening experience than the album eventually fashioned out of them. Where Ultraviolet’s electronics sometimes risk flattening the material, carpeting the piano’s nuances in velvety bass throb, Origin is a testament to both the subtleties of Moran’s instrument and the act of creation itself. For all the outward fragility of the sound, the EP has a wiry resilience; fleeting though these ideas may have been, their impact lingers.


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