Another Haunting Album from Niyaz and a New York Show on April 25

by delarue

Caadian Middle Eastern band Niyaz put out one of last year’s most gorgeous albums, Sumud, a shout-out to the heroes of the Arab Spring. setting classical poetry  to the band’s signature swirling, enveloping, haunting soundscapes. They’ve got a new ep out that’s just as enticing (and somewhat mischaracterized as “acoustic” since the majority of it, at the very least, features electronic keyboardist Carmen Rizzo at his most opaque and hypnotic). They’re playing the Cutting Room on 32nd St. east of Park Ave. on April 25 at 8; standing room tix are $22 and still available as of this writing. This is a good band to get a standing room ticket to since most of their music has a lusciously undulating dance gorove.

The first song on the ep is Sahar, a characteristically enveloping Arabic theme that layers an elegantly galloping blend of lutes and frontwoman Azam Ali’s vocalese over echoey ambience. Nalona, an otherworodly, droning tone poem features long, sustained atmospherics from co-leader/multi-instrumentalist genius Loga Ramin Torkian’s processed guitar lute behind Ali’s hauntingly melismatic, carefully ornamented vocalese.

Three of the tracks here were first released on Sumud. Mazaar, an update on an old Afghan folk song, precisely and plaintively calls for an end to suffering, Ali singing in the Afghani Dara dialect. Parishaan illuminates the lyrics’ lovelorn angst via a slowly crescendoing vamp juxtaposing stark fiddle and spiky lute melodies. The most anthemic, and genuinely acoustic track here, Vafa, has Ali singing low and suspensefully against echoey percussion and layers of richly ringing lutes. The final track, Naseem, a free download, features incisive, intense  flute cadenzas from Habib Meftah Boushehri . Just like Sumud, this is one of the most richly captivating albums of the year, further evidence of the brilliant collaborations that continue to come out of the expatriate Persian community.