Distancer is an album that
Yeah, it is an album that
Damn, where do I begin to unravel this?
Distancer is the new album from Hiatus, which will be released March 12, 2021. The London-based British-Iranian producer has given us ‘Arrival’, a single and video from that album to whet our appetites.
‘Arrival’ is music that haunts, excites and called out for me be hitting the repeat button over and over. The track features a spoken rendition of a poem called ‘The Guest House’ by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, words that Cyrus says lend the ‘Arrival’ a powerful message of hope. It also lends ‘Arrival’ a statement that good music transcends time and place. And make no mistake about it, this is good music.
“For me, the poem is about how as humans we are subject to thoughts and feelings that seem beyond our control, the result of animal instincts that connect us to the origins of life on Earth. I find myself bombarded with complex thoughts about my relationship with others and the world around me, many of them judgemental and negative in nature, all of which have their roots in a handful of behaviours that throughout evolution have ensured our survival – paranoia, pride, anger, ambition. But the poem suggests that there is a world outside of the stories of our lives, and though we can never be entirely free of the behaviours that define us as humans, we can connect with something much larger, and find liberation through recognizing that it is us, and we are it.”
It’s a message also conveyed by a stirring video, which features live-action footage shot by Owen Tozer in Tokyo, London and Kathmandu, alongside cosmic animations created by AI artist Nathan Shipley.
“The visuals are created using a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN),” says Nathan, “an algorithm designed to learn and generate patterns. We trained the GAN using images of cells taken through a microscope and also star formations taken through a telescope. This enables the GAN to dream an infinite landscape of new cells and star formations and also morph between the two. This ties back to the message of the poem: showing a connection between our elemental selves and the larger universe, which seems so alien and outside of us, yet which is made of exactly the same stuff, and came from exactly the same place.”
Cyrus began producing electronic music while working as a journalist in London in the early 2000s. In 2005 he was living with his grandmother in Tehran, spending his days working for an Iranian newspaper, his nights sifting through his dad’s old records. On his return to London he began work on ‘Ghost Notes’ (2010), an album featuring samples from many of those same records, and channelling the timeless melancholy of Iranian music. Despite being self-released, the album met with acclaim – tracks like ‘Sightless’ and ‘Insurrection’ received mainstream radio play, the latter voted single of the week on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on BBC Radio 6 Music.
In 2013 he followed it up with ‘Parklands’, a record featuring several vocal collaborations, including ‘We Can Be Ghosts Now’, the stop-motion video for which won Best Animation at the 2013 UK Music Video Awards. Four years later he released ‘All The Troubled Hearts’ (2017), an album-closing with ‘Delam’, featuring his father reciting and translating old Iranian poems, the story behind which Cyrus recounted in an article for the Guardian.
In 2019 Cyrus was introduced to Faraz Eshgi Sahraei, an accomplished player of a traditional string instrument called the kamancheh, and his wife Malahat, a talented singer, both recently relocated from northern Iran to north London. Over several months, the three met regularly at a studio in Brixton to record the songs that would eventually comprise ‘Distancer’, Cyrus’ fourth album.
As a result, ‘Distancer’ is Hiatus’ most Iranian album so far, crowning a process that began long ago; it also closes with another contribution of Iranian poetry from his father. Yet it is also a record liberated from the melancholy of past releases, channelling instead a sense of awe informed by the meditation, psychedelic experience and reading that in recent years has helped Cyrus deal with bouts of depression. It is a record offering hope at what can feel like a hopeless time, and one perhaps best embodied by Rumi’s closing words on ‘Arrival’:
The dark thought, the shame, the malice:
Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I hope you enjoy this album as much as I have. ‘Arrival’ gives a great big shout-out that Hiatus has indeed arrived.
Happy listening and play safe kids.
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