The Majestic Magic of Iran in the Palm of your Hand
Max LL is somewhat of a travelling musician. Each of his albums takes on a different place in the world or a time period. Throughout all the different soundscapes and visions though, Max LL’s thoughtful composition becomes the throughline that keeps a story together. “Golestan” is inspired by Max’s time spent in Iran and its Persian blood flows deep through its roots.
The title track (Golestan means Land of Flowers) opens with mournful strings and of older times. There’s a real sense of folklore throughout the entire album but its roots start here. Throughout the album a nameless poem is sung that speaks of the blessings of the Earth around us and wishing for little more than kindness and contentedness brought to you from the natural world and by extension your human connections. It’s sung and spoken in Persian both here and in track three “Howraman” and with the bustling strings and ambience around the voice – they are both superb pieces. Sitting between them, also singing the poem, is the luscious “Fal” that showcases percussive melodies and dulcimers that go full beans. it’s exotic and rapturous – showcasing another side to Iran’s beauty. The Sofia Session Orchestra that Max works with is outstanding here.
A large section of the album has a sense of wonderment to it, albeit tinged with sadness as the chords have that minor or seventh chord to them. “Deliverance” embodies this balance perfectly because the lush watery strings and instrumentation flows from stream to river to wild rapids and back to stillness again with such power and force, but that sadness is ever present. It’s so cleverly done because it embraces the musical scales of the culture and makes it feel truly authentic. “Procession” calls on mystery and solitude initially and the single coil of a note slowly reels itself into a rhymic whirlwind that wraps itself up into a blazing explosion of sound. It feels human but mechanical too and I could see it playing out as a short movie in my mind. The whole album is epically cinematic though as “Paradox” uses recordings of Farsi over megaphone are echoing in the background of spiralling riffs of strings, percussion and dulcimer-like instruments. So many instruments sound slightly detuned, like the electric piano, but they are all detuned in unison together to create a track that’s both haunting yet elegant.
“Old Souls” takes the album back to reflection with its bathtime ambience and pinpoint perfect electric guitar playing. Max’s guitar skills generally take a bit of a back seat in this album after his Spanish flair in Civilisation but here he works his magic in this tear-jerker. It’s as much about the space between the notes and the warmth of its pace and ambience as it is about the melody. That warmth and reflection continue with the more classical-contemporary track “Remembrance” which closer to something Olafur Arnalds would create – piano and string working in harmony. This side of the album then joins up with the heavily Persian side to create “Departures” where both sides co-exist in a symphonic celebration of both. The strings, piano, percussion and in particular the wind instruments all come together with such joy and grandeur – it’ll get your heart pumping and a wind beneath your feet to rouse your very being. It’s a fantastic way to close out a wonderful album that feels like a love letter to Iran.
Max LL has done it again. With Golestan he has created an epic cinematic treat that is far more melodic and hook-filled than most other contemporary classical albums and its added exotic flavour of Persian influences seeping through every track – it’s an album I’ve constantly returned to for rejuvenation and reflection. A magical, flawless experience.
Recommended track: Fal
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