That Time WhenSote

That Time When

- HAU2 - CTM Festival 2015. Photo by Fausto Caricato.

In the early 2000s, Iranian artist Ata Ebtekar was picked up by Warp Records. His debut saw the two high-charged percussive assaults, ‘Electric Deaf’ and ‘Subconscious (Pure Mix)’ under the name Sote. The record navigated away from the more conceptual releases Warp had been exploring around the time, instead slamming the listener with redlining kicks and shuddering reece basslines. As one Discogs user put it, the loudness of the record “freaked more than a few people out”.

A number of other Sote releases followed, but between 2007-2014, things went somewhat quiet in terms of recorded works. This is not to say he was in quiet retreat however. Ebtekar also works as a lecturer and installation artist, and has produced sound and installation art for numerous galleries in San Francisco, the City in which he studied Audio Engineering. One project involved creating a sound sculpture for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco with Ala Ebtkebar, another creating multi-channel sound art from manipulated recordings of protest chants during various demonstrations in the 1978/79 Iranian Revolution.

In 2014, record’s from under the Sote name started re-emerging, and the past two years this trend has continued - a drone/experimental Opal Tapes cassette, ‘Hardcore Sounds From Tehran’ released earlier this year. Despite a general move away from dancefloor sounds in more recent years, it is Ebtekar’s breakneck hardcore/techno experiments which make up his latest release. ‘Neuroenhancer’ and ‘In Music I Trust’ were written in the late ’90s, Shapednoise fronted Repitch Recordings seeing fit to bring them to light nearly two decades since they were first written.

With the 10” released late last month, we decided to invite Ebtekar to contribute to our ‘That Time When’ series, discussing five of his most memorable gigging experiences. His selections snapshot various moments in the history of Iranian music, both present and past.

1 Mohsen Namjoo in San Francisco_Circa-2008

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Mohsen Namjoo is an exiled Iranian composer, singer, songwriter and music scholar who has been based in California since before the mid-2000s. During one of his first concerts outside of Iran, he took me on an emotional journey in which I cried and laughed from one minute to the next. I was amazed by his artistry and effortless mastery of combining classical and modern Persian poetry with rock, jazz, blues and traditional Iranian music, making up a new form of music, which in my opinion is absolutely timeless. His performances are avant-garde operas for people from a wide range of backgrounds…

To me, he represents Hardcore in its purest form.

2 Googoosh in Northern California_Circa-2000

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The Iranian Revolution happened in 1979. Most pop singers actively working during the previous regime left Iran, with the majority migrating to Los Angeles.

Googoosh, an iconic pop star stayed in Iran. She didn’t perform again for twenty years due to restrictions on female singers performing in public. Fast-forward to 2000 where she sings publicly for the first time in two decades…

It was an out of this world experience. It was as if she had never stopped performing. She was better than ever (and she used to be the best). Thousands of Iranians were hypnotised by her everlasting charisma and powerful voice, which unbelievably, didn’t go even slightly flat or sharp throughout the whole concert.

It was a historic moment for all Iranians to see their beloved ‘pop star’ perform again for them. It was perfection.

3 Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb in Northern California_1990

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I had just turned 18 and moved to the United States from Germany. My favourite band, Depeche Mode, had just released one of the most amazing albums of all time, Violator, and they were about to perform in this huge land I had just moved to… Do I really need to write anything about an always-spectacular Depeche Mode concert? Well, guess what! I won’t.

But where things got more interesting and exciting for me is when Nitzer Ebb (my electronic high school band used to cover their songs in Germany) opened for Depeche Mode in a huge American stadium (this was the ‘cool, underground’ band of my teenage years). The majority of the U.S crowd didn’t know Nitzer Ebb. But I did, and I knew all their lyrics, and started to scream along ‘Douglas McCarthy’ like a proudly devoted fan. Their amazing basslines, and fascinating drum patterns were simply magical on that hot Californian Summer day…

4 Front 242 in San Francisco_1991

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One of my main teenage influences in electronic music was Front 242, especially between 1982 and 1991. Their Tyranny tour (1991) was a sort of grand finale for me, celebrating their decade long pioneering electronic music and thrilling performances.

I was slowly transitioning to techno, which at that time was all about sound experimentation and a different form of body and mind stimulation. I danced and po-goed one last time to their electrifying and provocative sounds. There was still a sense of positive and abstract danger present during their show. I think the beauty of their kind of ‘Hardcore’ was the fact that they were performing it with utmost control and elegance.

5 SET Festival in Tehran_2015

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SET is an Iranian, artist-run organisation with an annual festival and individual events throughout the year. The focus is experimental electronic music and visuals that deal with technology and art as well as the mediums themselves.

It was spring of 2015, the first evening of our newborn all-DIY festival, and it would be my first opportunity to perform my work for an Iranian audience. In all honesty, I was ready for the worst outcome. There were definitely a few incidents in my twenty-year long career, where I’ve cleared rooms during European and American ‘contemporary’ art and music events!

Now, was an Iranian audience with almost no background in experimental music going to leave during my performance as well? Were they going to start booing? Was I going to have random objects thrown at me? These were some of my thoughts before my performance.

Contrary to my immature speculations, the audience’s reaction and reception was ethereal. I was deeply touched by people’s open-minded attitude and appreciation for experimental art. The positive energy during and after my performance was heavenly.

This overall frame of mind carried on for the remaining audio/visual performances during the four days of the festival, which gave me a huge amount of spirit to continue my activities in my native home.

  • Published
  • Jul 14, 2016
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