Null is the debut album by Toronto based setar player Mahmood Schricker, a CD, as he puts it, that is Electro Persian music inspired by traditional Persian music and poetry. Iranian traditional instruments and vocals are successfully matched with the electronic elements employed by Shricker. This been achieved before by musicians as diverse as electrofolk singer Azzam Ali, kemenche player Kayhan Kalhor, who created the iconic Night Silence Desert (the Sgt. Pepper of Iranian music) along with classical singer Mohammed Reza Shajarian, or singer Mahsa Vahdat in her alliance with blues-counterpart Mighty Sam McClain, or guitarist Christophe Rezai and various musicians also on the Iranian label Hermes Records.
The fragile sound of Schricker’s setar and the distinct melancholic timbre of various guest voices mix well with the electronics ambient and dub sounds. Schricker gets the help from several excellent singers, including the genius Mohsen Namjoo, who takes the opportunity to focus more on his vocal virtuosity than on his political side. The beautiful vocal technique of tahrir, the kind of yodelling typical of Iranian classical traditional music, is applied freely, in Namjoo’s wayward style, but also in the more classical, virtuoso manner by Ebrahim Rahnama, notably in the song Stay, where the undulating vocal improvisations float elegantly over the electronic soundscape of evocative bleeps. More vocal contributions are given by Maryam Toller and Hamasseh Daneshzad, the first with a mellow and the second with a more shrouded voice, which again mix well with the acoustic and electric instrumentation.
At just over 37 minutes the album is too short, which is not only a point of criticism, but also a compliment; it tastes like there should be more. But a second album that can be obtained freely from the net might make up for this. There Schricker reveals a somewhat expressionist, Tom Waits-like side, including another track with Mohsen Namjoo and a track with John Zorn, and also Persian folksongs in various settings, some of them radical reworkings. They can be found on http://mahmoodschricker.bandcamp.com/
The various styles Schricker affiliates himself with indicate what we might expect from him in coming years, not only as a performer, but also and maybe even more so as an innovative producer.
Three further clips:
Mahmood Schricker featuring Mohsen Namjoo- Silent City
Neil Van Der Linden is a consultant on cultural exchange in the MENASA region and is co-founder and editor of The Gulf Art Guide.