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Sepehr - Survivalism (Shaytoon, 2021)

On the second release from Shaytoon, label boss Sepehr serves up his latest collection of cutting edge tracks that blur the lines between a vast array of genres, providing a long lasting experience which emphasises diversity, meaning and forward thinkingness.

Creating records that sing from various song sheets is a method that many producers have approached in the past, and to this day many still utilise this mantra as a means of binding their music within a sea of fluidity and morphologies. Ever since the 90s there have been records that merged the intangible boundaries between genres, where cross-pollination of stylings, features and tones of sporadic and disperate notions came together into sinuous sequences. Perhaps spurred on by the plethora of hardware at their disposal, or just the overarching lexicon of dance and electronic music which became more burgeoning as time went by, these evolutions in sonics served as points of inspiration for both music makers and listeners alike. It helped to showcase Dance Music within new scales, via the creation of hybrid languages that pointed to numerous references points and contexts, and these continual developments only helped to push music onwards and upwards. Its hard to quantify just how many of these moments have cropped up over the past few decades, and even within the present day we are greeted with records that tread the fine line between multiple genres, tip-toeing around beats and melodies as a means of creating their own uniqueness. It's no surprise then that producers who engage with this kind of wide reaching attitude have always been able to serve up the goods, and this is due to the fact that their scope has always been all encompassing, dynamic and inter-changeable. Each album rotates around a core set of values but around the fringes is where the variations occur, as new drum beats or textural applications land themselves within a mixture that feels elastic, ever expansive and deeply captivating. It serves as a tool which keeps things ticking over, moving from one tonal outline to the next, providing the listeners with a narrative that seems ready and willing to diversify its outlay constantly, adding new characters and stanzas into the mix with every new edition. It's world building at its finest, the music speaking of numerous places that persist all over the electronic soundscape but find themselves being bought together by forces unknown, and it's this middling point in time that has always provided the most captivating of experiences. Evolutions don't happen over night, instead they occur within the spaces between and within records, and to see that span out across a discography is quite the sight, and it's a view that travels far and wide in order to touch upon all that we perceive and all that we hope to understand.

For some time now, producer and DJ Sepehr Alimagham has been exploring the varying languages that make up the wonderfully diverse fields of Electronic and Dance music, with the incredible music found within his records always hinting at a larger scope and intriguing conceptual angles. If you were to jump from one release to the next within the discography of Sepehr, you get a feeling of numerous directions being pursued, of balancing acts that persist across numerous treads, and of a continual renewal and appriciations of sound and progression. There is an awful lot that can be found within his music if you look beneath the surface, and within the structures being played out you start to see crossroads and interfaces begin to emerge, their outer parameters converging with one another, overlapping to the point of brilliance. Alongside that, he references and homages a lot of Iranian records and musicians within his works, with these references weaving their way into a lot of his productions. A lot of Sepehr's work is seeped in the manipulation of melodic and drumming elements, with a lot of time spent clearly on understanding the feel of their onward trajectory, and crafting a spatial plain where keys and drums can really shine to their utmost. This feature has grown in dominance as time has passed by, where more clear cut features now merge with each other, creating these sensual textured spaces that appeal to all the senses, feeding the soul as much as they do the feet. As mentioned its hard to pin down Sepehr's style and distil it into one genre, as he has explored multiple strands within his music, from House to Techno to Electro to Acid and everything inbetween, with that last Genre being a near continual element that has popped up in a number of his records. As a sense of going from A to B, it's a pretty marvellous sense of progression, and you really get a sense for the processes that occurred between records, where Sepehr looks to push forward his sound and explore options for how to diversify the soundscapes and introduce invigorating elements. This sense of exploration has left us with a series of hard hitting compositions that all point to the usual fares found within the aforementioned genres, but there's a personality and character found within that only comes from a sharp eye and a keen ear, making the tunes sing so beautifully and hit so hard rhythmically. There's plenty to highlight within his releases, with our favourites including the expertly groovy Acid tinged odyssey that is 'Body Mechanics', which landed in 2018; the excellent joint release 'VX Vol 1', shared with Justin Peoples, which landed in 2018 also; the deep and rolling Electro experience that is the 'Cybernetic' EP, which came out in 2019; the intricate, textured and flavoursome 'Crown Jewel' EP, which came out last year; the equally impressive Electro fuelled 'Artificiality', which also landed last year; and finally, perhaps our favourite record of his to date, 'Shaytoon', which is as about as expansive, genre-morphing and all encompassing as it gets. There's a beautiful story being told within Sepehr's works, a narrative that lays itself bare and allows for multiple re-writes, edits and structural changes, and much like any great novel it contains tightly written stanzas, wonderful meandering sub plots and enriching character arcs that always lead the experience to new spaces. Sepehr has always looked to find new ground within his music, be it either within exploring one genre or a plethora of styles and sounds, he has always applied a finishing touch that leaves a real impression on the listener. His discography certainly sings from multiple song sheets, and this gives the music such credence and belief, a set of audial sequences that listeners can completely buy into, believe and never let go of, and that is truly remarkable. Definitely go and check out his previous works, as you can see we cannot praise them enough.

My ideation is basically like a Jackson Pollock painting. I throw a shit ton of paint at the wall and see what looks good.

It's safe to say that Sepehr has grown into his recent sound, and with this new record, 'Survivalism', you see the fruits of his creative visions break new ground in terms of dynamism, atmospheres and audial diversity. The release is the second on his Shaytoon label, which was founded with the intention of showcasing his productions and provide platforms for Iranian and Middle Eastern artists. Sepehr has always looked to include new styles within his works, and on this record he finds a large amount of space to include a hefty amount of breaks, and as if without skipping a beat this new introduction works wonders within his established style, adding more weight to this new and exciting chapter. Much like with his previous LP, the tracks verge between a number of differing musical spheres, with a hefty emphasis placed upon rhythmic continuity that is set at a very high tempo indeed, but don't be fooled, this doesn't mean the music is homogenous, oh no - every track has its own identity, and every track serves something up to the greater good. We shift from one rhythmic frequency to the next, with a fire burning in our hearts and adoration streaming from our eyes, yearning for the next groove and its associated melodic sequence to blow us away into the night, feeling the heat on our bodies from every corner of this passion fuelled extravaganza. So, on that note, lets dive head first into this mesmerising collection of tunes, that ensnare the senses and incite the mind into travelling towards some extraordinary places....

Up first comes ‘Eternity Artifice’, and this one begins with plenty of rhythmical intrigue to get the blood pumping. The vocals place themselves then multiply, the drums remain sparse but emphatic, and the spaces that be eventually get filled up by expansive bass notes and kicks, and to say that this initial salvo is anything less than insnaring is outright lying. The listener is firmly locked into this progression, as elements filter in and out of the equation just to be plucked from outside the pan and thrown back in, crafting these climatic moments that quietly hint at what might come next. A couple of breakdowns in energy provide a wonderful bridge between rhythmic sections, and this is where Sepehr throws in these beautiful melodic elements, their placement and feel so very soft and tender, and in within the sea of thick rhythmic depth, their presence casts a ray of light through the window. The track continues onwards, with excellent melodic additions being thrown in along the way to add further fuel to the experience, and as the track fades away, you get the feeling that anything - and we mean anything - could happen. An opener for the ages, this one. Next comes ‘Destination Unknown’, and this track starts in somewhat similar territories to the previous cut. The bass growls and hums just above the water line, crashing above the mark at all the right moments to give the listener a taster, and with this pulse the breaks begin to align themselves. The junglist notions don’t settle immediately, with Sepehr place a hefty amount of dynamism on them before finally allowing their sequence to rip it up within the foundations of sound. The drumming is exquisite, and up top a lot is happening too, with these siren/fog horn like chords ebbing and flowing along, their reverbs playing along to the densely textured feel of the drums. The track breaks it down expertly around the half way mark, as the pan is pushed to its limits in terms of elements cropping up here, there, and everywhere, and this helps to bring the main progression back Into the fold. We then simply glide along, fascinated by the groove and locked into the quiet euphoria of it all, and that is something we can certainly get behind. ‘Solitary Tool’ comes next, and this one starts off with the looping note to get things moving. This is quickly joined by the snares and kicks which help create this beautiful to and fro kind of rhythm, and just like that the spaces between these drums get filled with some wondrous drumming patterns. After remaining solid for a few bars the drums commit themselves to being as dynamic and metallic as possible, with their presence shifting constantly within the mix of instruments. Sepehr once again showcases a keen ear for development, as little melodic sequences make their way into the groove, adding flavour and emotion to the floor. The horns and lightlyy chiming keys give it a proper 90s Good Looking kind of feel, and that is a vibe we can all invest deep within. The track stops for a breather, and this is when the vocal samples are given some time to express themselves to whoever might be listening at the time, and the expanse created is deeply captivating from a tonal point of view. We all knew it was coming, but how good was that transition back into the drumming pattern? From that point onwards we are sold on this track, excellent stuff.

‘Lavashak Love’ comes next, and this one begins in understated waters but quickly grows, and grows, and grows. The vocal sample which leads the way helps to bind other elements into place, with the drumming pattern cutting so hard and fast within the underbelly. The melodic features so far have been quietly building, not giving too much away but now they come into their own, with the solo line that comes into view particularly effective at conveying intrigue and contrast. The crispness of the progression is such a delight, as little undulations merge and dissipate at their leisure, and as time passes by the melodic structure really merges with the backdrop. The breakdown allows for the various melodic layers to come to the fore, with the vocal samples given a lot of space here to dazzle with their textured and meaningful application. The beat here is fucking amazing, as Sepehr again blends the crisp with the hazy, fuzzy and textured, and it's a movement forwards that you can close your eyes to and feel totally lost in it all. The track then just continues onwards in this vein, taking in all it can see with euphoria casting in mind, and its core structure could run on til the end of days. Glorious stuff. ‘Bipayan’ comes on next, and this one grows into a bit of a groover quite quickly. The kick that greets us is very up tempo, its placement merging with this melodic static that flows between the points in time, with the hats and snares joining into the momentum as time passes by. One thing that we have really enjoyed on this record so far is Sepehr’s implementation of this kind of blank canvas melodic features, which begin doing on thing but then explode into life as the track evolves, and here we get really excited by this backdrop haze - what is it doing? When is it going to evolve, like the rest of the track has? And this happens in the most beautiful of ways. As further hat lines and breaks come into view, along with a metallic sample that drifts in from the right, the original melodic sequence simply ups itself ever so slightly, thats all, as further elements float into the track during the breakdown to further emphasise the groove. The track then morphs once again, and this is when we see the melodics transform into a butterfly of sorts, as chords cascade and flutter up high, and to see everything come full circle is a marvel. Fast paced, but just so delicate, it's a fine balance, and Sepehr nails it.

Up next comes the title track, and this one starts with the swirling chords to get us going. Not Long after the drums start to attach themselves to the emerging pulse, their placement becoming more and more frantic and excessive as time passes, with the space filling up beautifully, as if each break loop is part of a collage. The drums come at us in layers, weaving around one another with an affection that knows no bounds, with the vocals chiming in to add further flavour to proceedings. As with the previous efforts, Sepehr looks to introduce some further melodic elements into the blend, and after letting things brew since the intro, we now see a key line descend from above and lie itself up above the breaks. The track takes a distinctly hardcore leaning approach around the halfway mark, with heavy textures smashing through the top ends and aligning themselves with the groove, as the walls around us begin to shake furiously. The vocal sample that slides in does the business before transitioning back into the groove, with the melodic top end continuing to mesmerise as time passes by. The energy that continues to overflow from the top ends remains so very strong, and it's an emphatic feeling that runs onwards towards the end, never faltering or tripping up, but merely feeling every single angle that it can. Glorious stuff. To wrap things up, we have the bonus track, 'Plane Of Fear', and this one starts off with the kicks and drifting melodies. The ensemble is quickly joined by a scattering of cymbals and hats, their eagerness to get involved highlighted by their incessant nature. The call of the vocal sample provides further encouragement for the drums to fill the voids, and as ever the build up is expertly conceived, with plenty of time taken in creating the parameters for the song to grow into. The breakdown allows for time to reflect, but things jump quickly into the heated mix almost immediately, and we are left with time to reflect on this wondrous thrust through all manner of scales, spaces and moods. A glorious record that feels so complete, compulsively hunting down every single empty space and filling it with something deeply intriguing, and oh boy will you be constantly be coming back for more.

We started this review by talking about sounds which draw strength from numerous pools, where interfaces combine and unravel at a breathless pace, with the end result coming at us like a barrage of the unknown blessed with utter bliss. Sepehr's music has this quality running through it, a sound that divulges in its creator's wonderfully sporadic approach to music, and leaves behind a series of releases that always remain open to new ideas, concepts and feels. This new record of his is no different, with breaks and junglist notions featuring heavily throughout as a anchoring element of sorts which binds the melodies and vocal samples to it, and it is this structure which allows for flexibility to take hold throughout. Each track provides a fresh glimpse into the mind of Sepehr and his methods, with identities found in the individual but when standing back you see a full narrative being conveyed, and this collection of stanzas is profoundly intriguing. The pace is frantic, the dynamism intricate, the atmospheres ever shifting but always maintaining a sense of place and feel, it's a record that will have your eyes wide open at all times, and perhaps your head spinning, but always in control. A beautiful piece of music, and one that we will certainly have spinning for weeks to come.

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