Review of I AKA I Album by Ash Koosha

At the beginning of the award winning docu-drama No One Knows About Persian Cats the titles read "In Iran there are laws against blasphemy, free speech - and rock and roll". It's the story of a group of young men from Tehran who simply want to play music, but the symbolism of this act - effectively defying the country's regime by doing so - renders them marked men.

Ash Koosha I AKA I Album

As one of the key protagonists Ash Koosha found himself inevitably a focal point for this unwanted scrutiny and at risk of actions by the state both punitive and medieval, this fear of reprisals culminated in him seeking asylum in the UK whilst on tour. As a result of the dislocation he engaged in a complete reappraisal of what music could be: A classically trained auteur, this recallibration meant an abandonment of traditional instrumentation, the new hybrid sculpted from a densely frenetic maze of serrated edges, this sometimes alien  brand of electronica jumping cultures and borders at will.

It's rare that music designed in the narrow confines asks for such broad interpretation, but Koosha's journey has obviously been cathartic, whilst the vitality which he injects into these often brief compositions is a revelation, helping them avoid the easy trap of becoming avant garde for avant garde's sake.  A purposeful collision between East and West, admittedly the fusion can be a little daunting at first, opener Ote made from sliver-notes being rendered into the most obtuse of languages, whilst the chattering meta-beats of In Line and Make It Fast occupy the same dystopian reality as  furiously experimental genre pioneers Autechre.

In certain circles comparisons like that are the equivalent of secular heresy, but I AKA I - like the Mancunian veteran's work - disabuses the notion that artificial music lacks the randomness of human intervention. Indeed, the effect here is quite the opposite, a rarefied jungle of textures, ranging from the micro-symphonic piping of Snow and the icy droid-opera of Hex, to Fool Moon's glitchy 8-bit timehopping. It's no surprise that when he speaks Koosha talks of the nano-tune, partitioning works into things he christens "fractal sounds, from microsounds, from microtones".  This is more than attention to detail: it's the capacity to fillet each note, of hearing things at a molecular level.

Perhaps this is the legacy of being a dissident: having seen the higher and lower states of our condition, exile drives the ability to see either the big picture or the stroke of the butterfly's wing, but even if this is reading too much into the inner workings of the producer's mind,  there are still moments of pause amongst the futuristic jams. In the eye of this encrypted hurricane lie dots of calm, the intoxicating neo-Persian industrialism of Mudafossil, Eluded's nursery rhyme melodies and Biutiful's gorgeous, haze-filled seaside tones each exploring their own relative tranquillity.

In a world in which we're surrounded by retro-couture and have become obsessed with treating our consumption of music as some endless benchmarking exercise, I AKA I is that most frustrating of things, a record which is beholden to nothing and almost no-one, and is all the more brimming with invention for it. Brave, uncompromising and full of promise, it marks Ash Koosha out as an artist for whom perspective is the view to the horizon and far, far beyond.