Sohrab: A Hidden Place (Touch)
Another 2010 overlooked ambient gem I opted to revisit, A Hidden Place resides in a comfortable spot amongst Touch’s disparate and often challenging discography. The sounds that span the album are intended as a reflection of Sohrab’s Irani roots in contrast to his time spent (at the time of creating the album) in Europe. Opener “Susanna” is an airy mass, suggesting the same lightness that’s characterized much of Kompakt’s long-running Pop Ambient series. But not all of A Hidden Place is so easily defined. Sohrab goes on to incorporate field recordings, samples and more subtle ambient arrangements in ways that make more sense given Touch’s interest in regional and site-specific recordings, most notably Jana Winderen and Chris Watson’s environmental recordings. But whereas those conceptual pieces are at their core about listening intently to the environment as art itself, Sohrab’s pieces are more labored and manipulated. So the ambient field recordings and vocal bits of “Somebody” become a part of something greater with his added atmospheres and tones; I dont understand the language myself, but I can only assume that the vocal samples lend greater context to Sohrab’s intent. There are tense moments to be found in the release, such as the blast of lossy noise that betrays the pastoral elegance of “Pedagogicheskaya Poema” in its final seconds or the loud vocal wailing in the long title track. It recalls the modus operandi of Illinois ambient-noise outfit Illusion of Safety, lulling listeners into a false sense of security only to startle or interrupt them with a sharp contrast. That uncertainty of what to expect makes even the most soothing moments of the music ripple with tension, not knowing when a disembodied voice or sharp stab of noise is going to disrupt the surface. This sense of malaise perhaps ties back to Sohrab’s own feeling at odds with his hometown and/or new surroundings elsewhere.
Download a free extended track from Sohrab on SoundCloud (embed not permitted, sorry)