I had a wonderfully witty post in mind when I chose to write about this, but I’m not going to write it. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first I’ll point out that I generally view “charidee” records as the last refuge of witless has-beens clamouring for publicity in advance of their hastily cobbled-together comeback tours. I should also mention that I tend to switch off when guilt-ridden Westerners latch onto complex political causes of which they understand very little to assuage some of those niggling doubts they surely must feel about how their habits of waste, greed and drug abuse are causing the very misery for those poor, poor foreigners that they get so tiresomely cranky about.
This is not one of those situations. Read on: it might be the most important thing you read all day.
I’ll admit, I’m a hypocrite. Almost exactly two years ago, after demonstrations broke out in Iran, I applied a green filter to my Twitter avatar because everybody else was doing it and without bothering to look much into what was going on or why I should care about it. Now, most of the Middle East is or has been embroiled in protests and it’s easy to forget that there ever were protests in Iran. The whole thing was stamped out pretty quickly and we all went back to our comfortable lives giggling at cat videos and not worrying too much about what was going on over there.
One protester was lucky: he got out. Sohrab – who’d been turning recordings of contrasting chants and slogans into ambient music – fled to Germany. He was detained at Brandenburg and his request for political asylum was denied. He’s trying to raise funds for an appeal against the ruling, and if that fails he’ll be sent back to Iran, where he’ll likely be immediately arrested. This is where it gets stomach-churning: when a protester here was killed by police, the officer faced criminal charges of manslaughter. In Iran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami is reported to have called for the execution of leading demonstrators as they are “people who wage war against God”. The interrogation of prisoners is allegedly being headed by Saeed Mortazavi, who is already suspected of brutal interrogations and torture. Prisoners, male and female, have been raped and mutilated for speaking out against the government. Sending him home is possibly a death sentence.
So you can see why I didn’t want to write some pithy review in light of this information, which I’ve just read and is entirely new to me (as it might be to you, too). I mean, yes, those news reports were there all along, but there gets a point where it stops being news because there’s just so much of it happening all the time. Another headline I didn’t bother to click on because it’s just all so depressing and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.
Well, here’s one thing we can do to help one individual, and I’m struggling here to avoid sounding like one of those manipulative RSPCA adverts asking you to donate £2 to save a puppy – though I’m pretty sure that downloading this record won’t result in you being bombarded with leaflets and emails or trying to dodge those aggressive kids on commission wielding clipboards. You just have to navigate the website, make your purchase (Paypal/credit card) and wait for the confirmation email, which are steps you’ll want to take if you’re interested in the music.
Yes, the music: it’s not a guilt trip with a donation button.
Sohrab’s eerie recordings have been remixed into 37 minutes of ambient chill-out music by JG Thirlwell, several other people I’ve never heard of, and one or two who have chosen to remain anonymous. (That’s how opposite the latest Bono-sponsored smugfest this is.) I did of course grab it for the Thirlwell track because he’s pretty reliable when it comes to good music, but I needn’t have been too concerned: all the tracks literally blend into one since it’s a single MP3 file with no gaps.
Some of it’s soothing, some of it’s unsettling and sometimes it’s even a bit of an endurance test – sounding like the roar of water tumbling down a waterfall around the 29-minute mark, for one. I think that’s by Leif Elggren. For the most part it sounds like the sort of ambient score you get in movies or video games where you’re wandering around a cave – the sort of noises that you don’t really notice as music. You know, the sort of sounds you get playing at posh art installations or high-tech exhibits at the Science Museum. I’m reasonably sure from the order of the credits info in the download, and because it sounds a bit like Caterpillar Kid from LIMB, that the first five minutes are by Thirlwell – and clicking on that link will give you a bit of a hint on what to expect with this one. There’s also a preview clip at the download page.
I can’t really compare this to other ambient music because I don’t own very much of it. I’ll say this much for it, though: I’m a lot more likely to listen to this again than I am to most music I’ve heard lately.
All label and artist money goes towards the appeal fund