For the past five years, Saint Abdullah has been using sound collage and experimental electronics to bridge the personal and political. Born in Tehran, raised in Canada, and now based in NY, the Mehrabani-Yeganeh brothers stitch together tapestries of sound that syncretize their Iranian heritage with their North American upbringing. Like Elysia Crampton Chuquimia and bod [包家巷], Saint Abdullah conjures a bricolage of sounds that explore the in-between. The brothers are more defiantly political, however, challenging the Islamophobia that continues to plague the West with provocative imagery and combative lyricism. On Patience of a Traitor, they’re joined by Irish producer Eomac, aka Ian McDonnell, using the hammam (traditional Persian bath) as a starting point for a broader investigation of culture and memory.
Saint Abdullah’s project is to “challenge stereotypes and act as a conduit between unnecessary enemies”; as such, the unifying theme of the hammam is quite apt. Influenced by the Roman thermae, the hammam is itself a centuries-old amalgamation of West and East, brought into existence by war and trade. Opening track “At the Opposite Pole of Architectural Virtue” might provide a parallel to that history, full of distorted boom-bap dynamics that sample George Gershwin’s jazz standard “Summertime” alongside Farsi chants and field recordings. The next track “In One Corner the Male Relatives” jumps across the Atlantic, wielding the syncopated snare rhythms of UK garage alongside a relentless 4×4 beat for a heady, immersive track just as suited for headphones as for a warehouse soundsystem.
There’s an ineffable sense of loss throughout the record; “Tiles of the Facade” feels like it’s crumbling, a series of shattered, emotive chords a la Tim Hecker flecked with bits of microsonic debris. “Chafing Dish” brings jittery IDM stylings to that formula, as well as a meandering microtonal melody that feels like a reprise of “4000 Rat Patrol Posters” from their earlier album Inshallahland. Once centers of social life and community, the hammams of today often lay unused or have been repurposed, their place in Iranian culture historicized and recontextualized. To the diasporic Mehrabani-Yeganeh brothers, the memory of the hammam takes on an even more mythical aura that they inscribe into sound. Patience of a Traitor is a sonic manifestation of what’s lost when flows of time—and space—chip away at essences that might seem unchangeable.