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Saint Abdullah & Eomac
A Vow Not To Read Jaša Bužinel , August 2nd, 2023 08:10

A new collaborative record from Iranian brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehraban with the Irish DJ/producer leaves Jaša Bužinel wanting more

One of my favourite short films must be John Was Trying to Contact Aliens (2020) by Matthew Killip. A tale about curiosity, passion, hope, persistence, and most importantly love, it tells the story of the American John Shepherd, who spent thirty years trying to contact extraterrestrials by broadcasting various signals along with his impressive record collection into the cosmos. The opening song ‘A Vow Not To Read’ from the new collaborative EP of the same name by the brotherly alliance of Mohammad and Mehdi Mehraban aka Saint Abdullah and the Irish veteran producer Eomac immediately transported me into Shepherd’s headspace. There’s something uncannily esoteric about the radar blips, tape hiss and radio static that introduce the opener, which soon unfurls into a beatless dreamscape of grainy, distorted, decaying electronic analogue sounds revolving around a vaporous guitar melody with a sepia character. It’s a lovely piece of music, like a lucid dream in which you make a connection with an otherworldly entity.

The long-distance nature of this collaboration (which began with the release of the more politically-charged album Patience Of A Traitor) somehow reminds me of Shepherd’s endeavours. The Mehraban brothers would send signals overseas, hoping to make a connection, and vice-versa. Eomac refined these signals, sending them back and forth in a Transatlantic ping-pong. Their debut was framed around the image of Iranian public bath houses, and came across as a dialogue between the brothers’ Iranian roots and Eomac’s Catholic upbringing, blending their sensibilities into a hypnagogic sonic travelogue employing elements of noise, plunderphonics, hip-hop, techno, IDM, Iranian music and field recording. Sonically and aesthetically, the follow up gives the impression of a logical next step. Yet, the presented new material comes across as tamer, more focused, with a clearer sense of direction than the stuff presented on their debut, which possessed a more pronounced experimental edge.

While the mystical piece ‘Wali’ is a brilliant continuation of the opening, its repetitive cavernous beat riding along a vocal sample drawing from Shia mourners, the dance-oriented ‘No One Thought Of Love Anymore’ leaves me wanting for more. Running at just above two minutes, it reminds me of DJ Plead’s meditative club bangers due to its syncopations and pensive Mizmar-sounding melody. But it’s way too short, its full potential left unexploited. It could have easily turned into an epic eight-minute song, becoming the EP’s highlight. The trio does a radical u-turn on ‘Toes In The Hummus’, which nods to some of the crazier rhythm tracks from their debut. I really enjoy its inconsistent, seemingly improvised polyrhythms, arcade-game sound effects and rusty patina in the Rezzett techno mould. Its climax arrives with the introduction of a totally unexpected sample in the final seconds of the song. As elsewhere, some of these interesting ideas could’ve been developed even further, making the piece even more exciting. Closer ‘Mother I Couldn't Sleep’ again changes course completely, sounding like a Chet Baker-inspired, vaporwaved hip hop beat. I immensely enjoy the separate songs, particularly their textural quality and hauntological vibe. But as a whole, A Vow Not To Read leaves me longing for a more conceptually-unified sonic vision, as exemplified on their debut Patience Of A Traitor.