Arastoo & AEMAE – Ostrakon (Isoundercore)

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A collaboration between San Franciscan pianist Arastoo Darakhshan and producer/sound artist Brandon Nickell, aka AEMAE, running through two eleven minute compositions of creepily relaxed recordings. The works had taken some time to eventually find their release here for the Isounderscore label.

The title track of the record takes up the entire A Side and is primarily a showcase for Arastoo’ live composition but with AEAME’ subtle production tweaks apparent throughout. His electronics sound like train brakes scraping down from the opposite end of a frozen valley while the piano floats serenely at the fore, guiding it with caressing chords. There seems no theme that he is willing to return to, just an exploration through classical and soundtracky whirls.

The B Side, entitled “Capo,’ begins with the similarly warped and breathy train brakes, shifting and gliding in an odd but pleasing airiness. I say odd because sounds that should be thin and grating are somehow given this spooky echoing weight that twisted its way through the A Side and to appear as almost the only structure here. That is until Arastoo flutters through with some quiet, distant finger work. His twinkling chords held expertly back in the mix as if it was the sound of the piano floating up from the basement of a gutted house beside a lake.

Overall the works are meditative and, on the face of it, simple compositions. But further listens betray any of those initial thoughts and the elegance and subtle nature – of the piano especially – shine through on what is a wonderfully wintry release.

Joel Hedrick

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