Hailing from San Francisco and most well known for his recent work on Spring Theory Records, Aria Rostami has been pushing his sound into new territories consistently over the past several years. Ranging from experimental avant-garde pop to otherworldly broken beat instrumentals, Rostami explores and captures a new sound for his newest album on Audiobulb entitled, Sibbe (Sibby). The entire album took him a course of three years to create but he has secretly been ideating for the past seven years, searching for the true meaning to make this album come to fruition.
Focusing on information and the technology that proliferates information and cultural identity today, Aria carefully constructs an emotionally charged 7-track album, breaking down cultural barriers, and highlighting the method of creating art for art's sake and not being bound by the social norms of commercialism.
Rostami does a fine job of conveying these complex issues through organic soundscapes using a culmination of field recordings, a Piano, Turkish Tar, Synthesizer, Vocals, Glockenspiel, Violin, and Melodica and the DAW / Renoise. Each track is carefully composed reaching serene climaxes and almost brash uncomfortable lows. It very much sums up the chaos of today's fast moving society and the disregard for the beauty of art-form. Rostami's ambient compositions blossom the truth and reality of it all and gives the listener a listening environment to ponder, explore, and think deeply. Purchase Sibbe here and listen to select tracks from the album below.
Aria was kind enough to contribute the newest mix in our DECKast series, and also took the time to have a thought-provoking Q&A session with me that you can read after the jump. His almost hour long DECKast, is sedative and meditative in every which way, featuring the esoteric sounds of Actress to the shoegaze madness of Chasms. Listen and download it here...
1. Can - Millionenspiel
2. James Holden - The Caterpillar's Intervention
3. Aria Rostami - Nostradaminica (Odd Shapes Remix)
4. Actress - Our
5. Chasms - Riser
6. The Seatbelts - Space Lion
7. Aria Rostami - Vietnamoses
8. Floating Points - Sais
9. Isao Tomita - Preludes Book 1 No. 8 The Girl With The Flaxen Hair
10. Aria Rostami - Streetlights As Fairgrounds (Saine Remix)
Click 'Read More' for my Q&A with Aria Rostami...
What’s currently been on your mind?
All I’ve been thinking about today is where I can get some good soup. I wish there were more places to get soup near my house or my work. It’s not something I’m always in the mood for, but today I think I could have had soup for every meal. In the shower today I was thinking about how great it would be if I could make a film. I’ve made very very short films before where I’ve played every character and did all the filming and music and editing but I want to make something like a half hour long. Being an architect would be cool too. In the past week I’ve been thinking about the song “Ghost Town” by The Specials and how it relates to the changing culture of San Francisco and also about growing up in the 90s and how things like abstinence based drug education programs and stranger danger shaped my generation.
How important do you feel your environment factors in on your creative process?
In highschool I painted my room a different color in hopes that it would help me make music differently. It didn’t work. I think routine is more important. Like if I can go through a day doing things a specific way and go to specific places I’m usually more likely to be able to make music. I look at recording as work more than anything. I’m only able to get to it if I’m mentally stable and in check.
Can you elaborate on how you think one finds their own unique creative voice be it through music or the arts?
You have to spend a very long time trying things out. For me I think it took about eight years before I was making music that sounded unique. You should copy people as much as you can and you should try things that you don’t think anyone has ever tried. You’ll make a mess at the beginning but then you’ll start to see what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. You have to learn how to trust your ability. Once you have trust you can just create without second guessing. You’ll still make work that isn’t good but it’s usually still unique work. I recommend staying ignorant yet tenacious. I like to try and figure out a sound without actually looking into how it’s made. For example, a lot of the sounds on “Sibbe” were made after years of developing ways to mimic poor tape compression. Things are EQd to kill specific colors… things battle to get to the forefront… there’s pitch shifting and fuzz and speed is manipulated a lot… In the end it sounds nothing like tape compression but it sounds unique and it adheres to the rules of its own environment.
How has your cultural background crafted you into the musician you are today? Does it run in the family?
No one in my family is a musician. I looked at my parent’s music as something completely disjointed from my own world. My dad mostly listens to Persian folk music and my mom likes Iranian Pop from the 60’s and 70’s. I remember when I was a teen, my dad once brought up Pink Floyd and The Talking Heads to me which kind of blew my mind. In my world, it really wasn’t something my dad was supposed to know about. I don’t think this is an entirely unique experience for children of immigrants… especially if your parents are not from The West. But it is also an example of how quickly dismissive children are of their parent’s perspectives… It didn’t tie in together until January of 2008 when I was 19. Someone named “Sote” had added me on Myspace. His real name was Ata Ebtekar and he lived in Berkeley (I live in San Francisco). He made Experimental Persian music. I can’t really easily put into words now what this discovery meant to me but it was definitely like a bulldozer knocking down the cultural wall between my parents and me. The thought of Experimental Persian music had crossed my mind before… I thought at that time that maybe I could be the first to mend these two worlds together and it’s funny now because modern experimentalism in Persian art is hardly new or “never been done before.” I sent Ata a message and he responded and we met up. We talked about experimental music and the music industry… It’s something I hope I can do for someone else one day. Ata has since moved to Iran and still produces music. He is a prohibitionist artist of sorts considering there are a lot of legal restrictions on performing modern art in Iran. If you want to watch a good film about modern art in Iran I recommend “My Tehran for Sale” and you can also follow Ata Ebtekar on Instagram @Sotesound where he posts videos of Tehran’s modern art scene.
How was your creative process different on “Sibbe” compared to your previous releases?
I was disappointed in the music experience of my world. I was listening to a lot of non-commercial folk music that was coming out on compilations. One of the ones that really stands out is “Ethnic Minority Music of Southern China” which came out on Sublime Frequencies. The first song is a Hani Crying Song where all the singers are crying because a daughter is marrying a man that lives far away. This is a song that was not originally sung for any commercial reason. It sounds very abrasive as well because it is difficult for the singers to sing through their tears. In fact the choking sound of crying ends up being half of the song. Could you imagine a song recorded by an American band that is so viscerally powerful that everyone is balling as they are playing it? The music world I live and create in is commercial and it’s influenced by a world that is commercial and that world is influenced by another world that is commercial. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am about to record music that will be packaged and sold… I don’t live in a culture that readily ingests art any other way. So I wanted to take influence from something closer to the source or at least the function and the soul of music as humans originally created it. Things like amateur musicianship, improvisation and recording things in the moment… I also incorporated the folk world of today and used field recordings sent through cell phones to bring non-commercial sounds that still hold a cultural significance. I had people who were on the other side of the planet send me material as a way to represent our modern abilities to casually communicate. Maybe we don’t openly cry but we e-mail, text, video call and talk on the phone.
"The music world I live and create in is commercial and it’s influenced by a world that is commercial and that world is influenced by another world that is commercial."
I hear a lot of different sounds in this new album. Tell us what instruments/hardware/software was involved and how long it took to craft the right sound out of them?
I played the Piano, Turkish Tar, Synthesizer, Vocals, Glockenspiel, Violin, and Melodica and the DAW I use is Renoise. This album is heavily sound based but I definitely didn’t approach any song with specific sounds in mind. I usually try and think of the relationship of parts over time. I mostly use a basic storytelling arch of introduction, initial incident, climbing action, climax, and resolution which you can hear in songs like Delta, Nosferatuva and Vietnamoses. For Crwthrúd I approached it in something like a chorus, verse, chorus, verse way but I didn’t use melody or chord progressions to achieve it... Instead I used a back and forth of intensity, release, intensity, release. It was a sister track to Nosferatuva which is extremely intense and then dies into something calm while Delta does the exact opposite. I try to use contrasts to highlight specific sound ideas in a song and then relay those ideas in different ways throughout the album I’m working on. As far as how long it takes... Some sounds are nearly the raw recording which doesn’t take much time but there are also sounds that literally take me a whole day to work on. I’ll make something… export it… stretched it… reverse it… resample it and cut it up. That’s a process I usually go through when I’m trying to make a song and it’s not working. I’ll sleep on it after working on it for 8 hours and re-introduce it into another song I start recording and it will fit in somewhere.
You say that the new album “Sibbe” focuses on information, technology, and cultural identity. A lot of the album is composed beautifully around ambient tones and textures. How does this relay to your interpretation of the future of human identity in a technology driven world?
I was mostly thinking about now rather than the future when making this album. But I guess I could muse on this point… when I was growing up in the 90’s I was very excited about all the cool “stuff” technology would bring us... Hoverboards and jetpacks come to mind right away. But what has ended up being the most important thing is far far beyond something tangible… we have access to information. Imagine what would happen if all of North Korea had access to the internet. Imagine what the power of information would do to a society that is barred from it. This would be an extreme case, of course. But now look at your world in comparison and all the things you have at your fingertips. What I do now and what is most important to me is the music I make. I learned how to make music through the internet. I literally sat in front of a screen and learned how to play instruments and record. I’m in a long distance relationship and I talk to my girlfriend every day. If I hear about some interesting political point I can immediately search for its counterpoint to understand the full issue. I can only hope that people will continue to use information to explore individuality and that more people will become autodidacts (a word I learned on the internet).
What is your go to source of inspiration when sitting down to write or start experimenting with a track?
It’s one of two polar opposites. I’ll either listen to music and hear something and think “I need to make music that can do this”... like music becomes this thing full of amazing unexpected turns. There will also be times where no matter what song I listen to it isn’t interesting so I’ll just resort to wanting to make a song I haven’t heard before. Like in the morning there isn’t a song in this world that I want to listen to and by night there is.
Did much of this album come to fruition through continuous experimentation or did you have a solid direction throughout the production process?
This album came in three parts… the beat driven stuff (Czarat which was released on Spring Theory and Vietnamoses are the only songs that made it to release) and the dark ambient stuff came first. For these songs I didn’t use any sampling outside of drum sounds. The third part was the Sibbe trilogy which incorporated samples of field recordings sent to me from Iran and Taipei. I originally wanted the album to be more dynamic and incorporate more ideas. I really like artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto and Moondog who can include many different genres on a single album. In the end I settled for what would make the most direct vision. It’s probably better to reel things in and simplify the ideas of a work… it gives the album a context.
This is your first release on Audiobulb...How did this match come about to release an album on here? Also do you have anything coming up in the remainder of 2015?
Audiobulb is the parent label to the now defunct Audiomoves (which is now the syncing company for Audiobulb). I had two releases back in 2011 on Audiomoves and then they were later reissued on Audiobulb in 2013. The first album was “Form” and the second one was “Uniform”. I originally heard of Audiobulb through FatCat Records. FatCat posted one of my songs on their demo page and recommended Audiobulb to me. I have two shows booked in San Francisco, both of which are collaboration sets with Daniel Blomquist. One of which will be on Saturday October 17th at Thee Parkside and the other one will be at The Center for New Music on Saturday December 12th. I’ll have an album out early next year on Spring Theory which is very very different than Sibbe. Go to my website and find me on facebook to keep up to date with all the things coming out!
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Previously :: Aria Rostami - 'Song For The Sinking City'