More than most styles of music, drone recordings are open to interpretation. The best elicit an emotional response that inspires listeners to project their own thoughts and perspective onto the work as it slowly progresses. In this way, they absorb and then reflect our feelings back to us, colored by the recording’s own nuances. To fully enjoy a great drone work is to listen and be listened to all at once.
Spiral, the latest recording from Iran’s Puria M. Rad (a.k.a. Pé), is both an illustration of this and a reminder of how compelling it can be to combine the imaginations of artist and audience.
The album is presented in five parts. Pé combines synthesizers and processed tape recorders to produce futuristic, gently noisy ambient works. Each “generates cross-modulation and wave interference that falls out of sync as it slowly evolves, only to realign by the end of each piece” according to the album’s notes. “Through this process Pé explores the coexistence of repetition and unfamiliarity: the habit of ignoring the path well-traveled, and the impulse to dwell on the past.”
This notion of choosing one’s own path has a particular resonance given Rad’s nationality. To be an artist in an authoritarian state is to be a threat. That’s understood. What’s extraordinary about his work as Pé is the subtle ways he finds to share his experience with that oppressive reality in a manner that is so relatable.
The tension Rad lives with is clearly unique to his circumstances. Few of us can imagine what it was like to be born and raised in Tehran. But hearing how he expresses that strain on Spiral, it is difficult not to connect to it in very personal terms.
To what extent Rad is consciously seeking to produce relatable work is neither here nor there. He’s done it on Spiral. That’s no small thing.