Shawhin Izaddoost, the man behind VVV, put out a mixtape entitled Why El Paso Sky earlier this year, and it was quite a teaser. Murky, ambient rhythms and catchy melodies appeared throughout, all wrapped in unique production that gave the cassette an identity all its own. He has followed it with Shadow World, a full-length record that is drawn from the same palette as the previous work, but with a stronger sense of cohesion and consistency to make for an engaging album from beginning to end.
Across the nine pieces that make up Shadow World, Izaddoost's bread and butter of sparse beats and dark melodies abound, in such a way that straddles the line between experimental music and the dance floor."Give It Time" is a vaguely house-inspired bit of catchy rhythms, complete with female vocal samples and synth melodies, but it has so much more depth to it, surrounded by lush processing and rich ambience."Spellbound" is at first a mid-tempo piece of murky beats, but the dramatic synthesizers that underscore the bits of voice that are scattered throughout are also a standout.
Another defining element of Shadow World is Izaddoost's inclusion of traditional Iranian instruments, a nod to his own heritage.Swirling horns appear throughout the mix on "Fire Temple", making for a nice traditionalist counterpoint to the otherwise modern programming and electronics.His pairing of Middle Eastern percussion instruments with the mangled, sampled beats is another exceptionally well done touch.Traditional instrumentation can also be found on "Circuit", with horns drifting through an echoing space of pulsating synthesizers.
Izaddoost's skills as a producer are just as strong as a composer though, and one of my favorite aspects of Shadow World is the sound design itself.The entire album is buried in a crackling, vintage haze that never obscures the music he is making, but instead adds to it and provides a wonderful layer of depth."Fifth Ring" is heavily filtered with a bit of distortion, sounding almost as if the performance is coming from the middle of a rainstorm, but the gorgeous melodies are anything but obscured.For "Give It Time," the ghostly melodies are nicely blended into a rich, analog crackling ambience from beginning to end.
Some of the album‚Äôs strongest moments are saved for its closing pieces though.There is a greater sense of calm to "Reminder," with an overall pensive feel to the taut rhythms and glistening melodies.It may be calm, but Izaddoost keeps the mix fresh, adding and subtracting layers at all times to make for a peaceful, yet still extremely dynamic work.For the concluding "The Descent," he opts for a largely beatless space, instead placing the focus on frozen horns and cavernous spaces.There is a time-worn sensibility to the interlocking loops and layers, ending the album on a pretty, but abstract note.
It is hard to determine which is the strongest part of VVV‚Äôs latest album, because while the melodies and beats are compelling, it is very difficult to overlook the depth given to these songs by Shawhin Izaddoost‚Äôs production.Everything is just so elegantly presented in an ambient wash that adds a brilliant depth to the actual music being presented.Thankfully though, there is no real need to pick a favorite part, and instead I just enjoyed Shadow World for what it is: a uniquely complex, multifaceted record of ambient dance music.