Arastoo & AEMAE: Ostrakon

Available in a run of 320 copies, Ostrakon is a twenty-three-minute vinyl release showcasing the considerable experimental talents of collaborators Arastoo Darakshan (piano) and AEMAE aka Brandon Nickell (synthesis). The A-side's title piece positions Darakshan's elegant classical playing at the center of Nickell's jagged electronic treatments. Nuanced, impressionistic, and ruminative, the fluid piano playing wends a largely slow and melancholy path while Nickell shadows it the violent screech of a train car, alien snuffling noises, and subtler atmospheric enhancements like the ghostly whisper of silken electronic tones. Taking the lead in this remarkable set-piece, Darakshan masterfully modulates the tempo and volume of his playing, with Nickell following his every move with well-timed textural colourations.

The roles are reversed on the flip side's “Capo” with Nickell presumably at the helm. Like the amplified fusion of a distant train whistle and a hydraulic machine, industrial reverberations advance and recede in volume, with Darakshan's piano either nowhere in sight during or transformed via processing so completely no trace of its natural sound remains. Suddenly, however, the storm retreats at the halfway mark and cascading ripples of piano tinkles appear like sunlight piercing through the departing clouds. Both pieces are resolutely experimental in character yet eminently musical, despite an occasional harsh interjection on side one. Nickell issued the distinguished Ostrakon on his own Isounderscore imprint.

November 2008