There is an obvious sense of isolation, both overt and implied, within this album. As a young composer in the culturally restricted country of Iran, the hushed textures and quiet moments feel forbidden, and therefore all the more attractive to hear. In addition, the quiet, meditative passages are occasionally broken up by sharp, loud outbursts that magnify sense of paranoia in listening to the proceedings.
Utilizing just field recordings, software, and live mixing, A Hidden Place is a dynamic album despite its sparse nature. "Susanna" hides grimy, treated percussive loops below time worn hums and reverberations, burying what would otherwise be boisterous sounds in blankets of quiet. The rhythms take on a flanged, aquatic character as icy melodies rise to the surface to become the focus.
"Somebody" also uses sparse, treated field recordings that sound as if they were collected in secret, with what sounds like distant prayer chants clearly setting the mood in which this was recorded. Voices appear, somewhat overtly, towards the middle of the piece, conveying a feeling of being questioned by some draconian authority. "Pedagogicheskaya Poema" demonstrates this at its most jarring, with subtle, simple sounds constructed into beautiful micromelodies, creating a hypnotic swell that is violently interrupted by a squealing blast of noise, making the implied tension overt.
Organ like bells open "Himmel Uber Tehran" above a rhythmic backdrop of reversed static bursts and clear, digital chimes that take command, once again providing a warm, inviting glow. This is snuffed in the title track as layers of oppressive, but brittle noise cover everything, with the occasional snapping or crackling outburst to be heard. Just as the noise retreats, yelled voices appear, again making the underlying tension tangible.
As the B side ends on "Zarrin," there is a sense of relief that the remaining treated and stretched melodies give. Under a layer of heavy vinyl surface noise, the melodies twist and curve into one another without any harsh outbursts. The pensive, melancholy tones sound like they’re coming off an old LP that has been passed around in secrecy for years.
I have always felt that conceptual music, or works created within a specific context, should function well in a vacuum…meaning that they should still be compelling without knowledge of where, when, or why they were created. A Hidden Place accomplishes that, as there is a lot of hushed beauty and frightening outbursts to be heard. Knowing the conditions in which Sohrab created this, it only adds to the power of this recording, making it fascinating on multiple levels.