Within the Ambient underground collaborations seem to capture the inspired moments. They work best when the artists give of themselves and share with other artists their individual talents. With “Sallaw” you have three artists from vastly different countries coming together. Porya Hatami comes from Iran and has been a highly productive artist of the last seven years with close to twenty full length albums to his name, some of those with collaborators such as Darren McClure, Lee Anthony Morris and Arovane to name a few. Aaron Martin hails from the United States and is known in his own right as well as being a collaborator of Machinefabriek and Dag Rosenqvist (as From The Mouth Of The Sun). Robert Attanasio is an Italian pianist and composer whose work has appeared on labels such as 1631 Recordings and Memory Recordings. Together the three of them nicely craft an album that feels fully collaborative. After each track is a translation and definition. With that in mind I will be listening to see how the titles are brought to life in the individual pieces.

Sallaw” is a Kurdish word that expresses the passing of time, and on this new album the three sound artists have found a way of expressing that notion in music. Four tracks of slowly unfolding ambience make up this collection, each piece named after different months, again in Kurdish. The four sections represent the different seasons and their movement through time.

“Xakelêwe” is the first month of the year/spring and is 31 days long. The name Xakelêwe/Axlêve means “the month when the earth thaws”, as snow and ice start to melt and spring is soon to come.Without getting into glacial cold territory, there is a cold feel to this track. The howling ambience is a large part to this as is the field recordings of water. Emerging from gritty sounds scapes the track takes it’s time to reveal itself. The aforementioned cold howling drone starts to build and is paired with a slightly different darker drone. Between the two of them and the field recordings there is a certain stillness that suits the piece. Starting to creep through is Martin’s cello which is woven in so delicately that it sneeks up on you. The tone of the cello, with its mournful quality adds a depth to the piece as does Attanasio’s piano which is introduced to the track in the same fashion as the cello was. The way that all the elements are combined together puts them on an even sonic footing. It is only a bit later in the piece that both the piano and cello are given brief moments to rise up, which makes their placement all that more special. As the piece moves to completion the cello becomes the dominant instrument and the tone moves away from mournful sounds to one of more hope and resilience.

“Pûşper”The fourth month of the Kurdish calendar is called Pûşper and is 31 days long. Pûşper is the hottest month of the year and lasts from June 21 to July 22. The dry air and warm days dry up many natural greens and harvests which gave the month its name. Pûş is grass when it becomes dry, yellow and light as a ‘per’ (feather) -> Pûşper“. Field recordings and Attanasio’s piano open the track. The first thing you notice is the change in sound. With the previous track everything was quite vibrant. For this piece there is a distance felt. The piano has glassy tones, the field recordings are suitably dry. It’s only when the dronescapes and cello enter the piece that things start to become more vibrant and present. The track flows ever so slowing, building its intensity incrementally with the drones coming to the fore almost burying the piano in the process. Musically it does, in reflection, adhere to the definition of the season ever so slightly. You never get the feeling of a dry environment, but I suspect that this is due more to subtlety rather than anything to do with the composition. It would be easy to do something that was obvious to the theme, but that would remove the objectivity of the listener.

“Gelerêzan” Gela means “leaf” (read: trees) in Kurdish. Gela-rêzan means “the month of fallen leaves”. Xêzan, which is another name for the month, is 30 days long and lasts from October 24 to November 22. Winter is coming.Stark piano opens the piece. It’s repetitive phrase is joined by an off kilter partner, while a whistling drone (possibly whistling itself) adds a slightly desolate feel which is amplified by the Cello and the way that Martin coaxes out wails from the instrument. The track definitely resides in moody textures and has a noir-ish, almost folky feel to it. Possibly the autumnal meaning of the title has truly had an effect on the piece. In some of the other pieces (like “Xakelêwe”) you have felt more an influence of Hatami coming through, but with this piece it’s Martin and Attanasio that feel that the are in charge of the piece’s direction.

“Rêbendan” Rê or rêga means road/path in Kurdish and ‘bendan’ refers to the word bend, “to tie” (read: block). Heavy snowfall makes the roads in remote areas to be blocked by heavy snowfall and that’s how the month got its name: rê-bendan. The month is 30 days long and lasts from January 20 to February 19, Gregorian calendar.This particular track feels somewhat different to the three that have preceded it. More electronic in nature with a very slight sci-fi feel, it has a loose atmospheric approach with an ever-moving sound scape. The electronics swirl, glitch and echo around while piano elements that have harp like qualities in their timbre are woven in. There is a mix of dronier elements alongside electroacoustic ones, with the more traditional use of cello that we have heard throughout the album. While other tracks have felt closer to re-creating a sound or feel, this particular piece feels that it is more orientated to creating a sort of environment that is alien in nature. For that reason it stands apart from the other tracks. That said if the electronics were different, then it would slot right in with the rest of the pieces.

At the start of the review I mentioned that it would be interesting to see how the titles and pieces matched up. With artists that have been around for sometime they know the difference from screaming obvious and subtlety. For this album they have chosen to go down the latter path. Hatami, Martin and Attanasio though divided by various parts of the world, have come together nicely to blend their individual styles into a consistent work. Hopefully not a one-off collaboration as for a debut release, it is an engaging and intriguing one.

“Sallaw” is available on CD and Digital.

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