Album review: Mehraab by Loga Ramin Torkian
We’ve been fans of the band Niyaz for a few years, and we love the way they have dug into their Persian culture and created music both deeply rooted and freshly modern. One of the band founders is Tehran born composer and multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian. Loga has lived in the USA since the Iranian revolution and is respected worldwide for his ability to adapt the Persian classical repertoire to work with his own more modern compositions. His talents have been featured on many major film scores, which include Body of Lies,Iron Man and Prince of Persia.
Based now in Montreal, Canada, he has just recorded his first solo album, Mehraab (meaning ‘shrine’). For those of us familiar with Niyaz, this is, in some ways, more of the same. Excellent! This is a good thing indeed. (Actually, Niyaz vocalist Azam Ali, Loga‘s wife, guests as a percussionist and instrumentalist on some tunes).
The eight tracks feature superb musicianship, driven by solid framedrum and tonbak work and world-class performances on various stringed instruments by Loga himself. In 2004, unsatisfied with the limited expression of the various instruments he played, he sought out the help of renowned instrument maker Jonathan Wilson who introduced him to what would become one of Loga’s main forms of expression, the guitar viol, a bowed electric guitar, which allowed him to express the entire range of eastern musical modes. Loga’s main instruments are the Turkish saz, the kamaan (a bowed acoustic instrument which Jonathan Wilson specifically designed for Loga) and the guitar viol, and what makes his style so inimitable is that he is able to apply traditional Persian bowing techniques and melodies to his playing.
The album partly features the amazing voice of Persian classical singer Khosro Ansari and it clearly resonates with the legacy of traditional Iranian melodies and poetry. Khosro Ansari has been described as the modern voice of Persian classical music. Considered among the best singers of the Radif (Persian classical repertoire), Ansari’s vast knowledge combined with his highly emotive voice adds a rich depth to this album.
Loga says: ‘Although I used many modern sound-processing techniques, I did so only to expand on the frequency range of my natural instruments. I wanted to create a palette of colors with which I could weave together a sonic spectrum not commonly heard in traditional Iranian music. But more than anything, I wanted for the music to be an almost visual experience.’
I think he’s achieved that and more; a continuous listen through the eight tunes exposes the listener to a range of textures and rhythms, evoking the ancient and the modern simultaneously. Musical time travel, if you like. The mixes are clean, the use of reverberation enhances the atmosphere rather than obfuscating it, and the emotions of the musicians and singer are conveyed in an almost tangible fashion. This is a beautiful album, the kind that will still be played in years to come, as timelessness is one of its many strengths.