Iranian born, Austin raised artist Shawhin Izaddoost’s new release as VVV may, at least superficially, follow the hip-hop derived model of the mix tape as a collection of ideas and unfinished work, but that is not entirely accurate. Why El Paso Sky feels mostly like a fully polished and realized release. A combination of rich, complex ambient moments, vintage synth sequences, and strong beats are exceptionally well done on here, with a mix that captures both cerebral production and avant garde sounds with straight ahead physical rhythms and melodies.
Izaddoost's sound draws elements from vintage electro and techno, but it is solely a product of the modern era. Sure, a song such as "Metcalfe" sticks to a clean mix of unspoiled beats and dramatic synth leads, but the filtering and arrangement is far more complex than a simple nostalgia trip would produce. For "Limestone," he works from a distinctly old school sounding pulsating synth and some traditional house-like vocal samples, but the cold, distant processing results in something entirely different, as is the lush static bath in which the piece ends.
Why El Paso Sky has a darkness to it as well, however. The subway ambience and massive reverb that darkens "No Left Hand Turns" gives the throwback drum and bass sounds a more sinister sheen. On the other hand, the mass of beats and samples of "Isfahan" seem to be not at all intended for dancing, and the big leads are obscured by what sounds like guns cocking and glass breaking, making for an exceptional sense of tension. Crackling space defines "Black Fences" and what sounds like a field recording of walking gets molded into some odd rhythmic loop that is brilliantly abstract.
Additionally, one of the album’s strengths is simply the complex and intricate production throughout. On "Why El Paso Sky," Izaddoost starts from a looped new age-y piano and adds expansive passages of electronics to make for a murky, heavy ambient sound. From this relatively basic sounding framework, the depth is astounding, and the full piece has some oddly three dimensional, almost physical quality to the sound. The heavy beats and subtle arrangements throughout "Gauss Patterns" are largely minimalist in structure, but the effects and processing add a much more significant depth to be deconstructed.
The only notable weaknesses to Why El Paso Sky are that it is essentially a teaser for a forthcoming album, and because of that, some of the pieces are painfully short. For example, the heavy leads and lush programmed textures of "Fly Paper" are amazing, but drift away at less than two minutes. This is more than made up for by the more fully-fledged pieces, however. Closer "Hide The Lightening" is all clanging industrial beats, noise, and plucked strings, but even with its deconstructed style, the memorable slinky bassline ties it together perfectly.
As a mixtape, however, VVV's latest release serves its purpose exceptionally well. It stands on its own, even if there are a few moments that seem frustratingly unfinished and incomplete, but also heralds the forthcoming release as something all the more tantalizing. Izaddoost’s work is exceptionally modern and compelling. The abstraction and beat-less pieces are engrossing, but when paired with the more rhythm-centric works, the final product is a strong release that stands independently, but also makes for a nice teaser for what is to come.