HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

24 October 2017

Iran (Vulgar Tango)

I used to have this on CD but 'upgraded' to the LP, which comes with a bonus 45 rpm 10", recorded about a year later and having zero presence on the usually infallible discogs.com. Iran are a group I know essentially nothing about except I received this to review for something, as a CD back in the early 00s, and always liked its warped, art-rock approach. At a time when I was looking to both drone/minimalism, textural approaches to composition, and collage material such as The Faust Tapes, it seemed to tick a lot of boxes. No one would ever describe Iran's sound as 'precise', but it's not a giant mess either. There's not a total abandonment of guitar-based indie rock, clearly their roots, but they were obviously looking to push forward beyond that sound. There's noise without chaos; tracks like 'Radio Galaxy' revel in static, hiss and its variable possibilities, but stay aware of space, time, and pace. 'The Music Plays Itself' (found on the bonus 10") continues the interplay of radiowaves and guitar, on a bed of tremolo and with some delicately expressed singing for just a second before a wave of thicker buzzing takes over. Though the guitar playing in 'Sailors' sounds like someone falling down the stairs, it's herky-jerky for good reason, and the various layers of buzzing guitars, static, and electronics throughout it (and other tracks) all seem to be there for a common purpose. It's not a kitchen-sink band, but rather a band that was seeking a way out of the easy disharmony of the spacey jam. We get flavours of genres - 'Spherical Cockpit' is one such example, a deconstruction of anthemic guitar post-rock, which by '98 when this came out was already pretty tiresome. Here, the chords build up, but there's zany synth sounds challenging the rigidity, like a shortwave radio broadcast of Mogwai or something. "Deconstruction" is such an easy term to throw into music writing, and it's often used to describe approaching a song from the inside-out, but Iran is actually more about construction - about choosing layers to mean something and combine for important textural form. It's lo-fi hi-fi, if that makes any sense - there's a clear soundstage on 'Crickets', Western Avenger', and even the hissy static of 'Yellow Tiger Lemons'. When vocals are present they're often processed beyond intelligibility, adding to the overall aesthetic with just enough odd words slipping out to steer things; or in 'Goodnight, Goodnight' they're delivered conventionally but with everything else out of balance to make it a parodic pop song, and a solid album closer.'San Diego' is the shortest incursion into this direction, with crisp acoustic guitars and even ending with a clearly emoted lyric!  'Drugs' and 'DC', the 33rpm side of the bonus 10", don't appear on the CD version of this album and are rendered in glorious fidelity, with the indie/post-rock presence of 'DC' a bit like if Bedhead got taken over by a computer virus. Overall it's a great assemblage that stood a bit ahead of its time – this type of experimentation felt a bit more common a few years later, by which point Iran had moved on to their second and third albums. I'm not sure where they are now, if anywhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment