There’s a reason that Siavash Amini takes his role as an artist seriously. “For us, growing up in Iran, there was a lot of stigma surrounding music,” he says. “We had to persuade our parents that music isn’t just a hobby. Art is not a hobby. It’s serious work.” To help combat that social stigma, Iranian artists—Amini among them—held serious discussions about why it’s important to be an artist: the good that it does for the creator, and how it contributes to society. “These discussions started something in us. It became apparent that we shouldn’t be ashamed of the things we’re doing and creating,” he says. “We had to rebel against the system—but it wasn’t in a punk way at all.”
Amini began recording and releasing music under his own name in the early 2010s, initially through Iranian experimental label Mahriz Recordings, where he also worked. These days, Amini’s reputation reaches far beyond the borders of his country, with releases on Mexican label Umor Rex, U.K. imprints Opal Tapes and Flaming Pines, and renowned experimental Swiss label Hallow Ground. His recorded output ranges from soft ambient sketches to lengthier, more ruthless, occasionally quite harsh pieces. In addition to his numerous solo releases, he also frequently collaborates with artists from other disciplines and fellow musicians from all around the world.
His creative technique has remained almost unchanged over the past decade or so. Amini still uses a very simple recording setup—essentially just a guitar—alongside a very limited amount of software. What does keeps changing are his influences, which affect his work deeply. “To be able to create, you need to have a lot of inputs. For me, that plays a big role. I try to immerse myself in things I find interesting,” shares Amini. The inspirations range from literature—whether it be poetry, fiction, or philosophy—to cinema or other music, both contemporary and classical.
Till Human Voices Wake Us—an album of fragile ambient sketches and gentle drones—was something of a “breakout” album for Amini. After some disappointing experiences with labels and music professionals in Iran, Amini decided to try to release the album with a label abroad. “I started emailing every record label I knew. Nobody got back to me for a year,” Amini says. “I was seriously thinking about quitting music.” Eventually, Daniel Castrejón from Umor Rex responded. “This release alone started me on this path that I am on today,” Amini says. “If this album hadn’t been released by Umor Rex, I wouldn’t have made any other music afterwards.”
Recently reissued on Room40, What Wind Whispered To The Trees was a “big turning point” for Amini, who, up until just before the original release of this album, was immersed in a more guitar-heavy strain of ambient music. Growing slightly tired of that vibe, Amini and Nima Aghiani (of 9T Antiope) decided to collaborate. “I told [Aghiani] ‘I can write for strings, you can play strings, our friend has a studio where we can record it. Why not try and see what happens,’” says Amini. “This album is the result. Heavily inspired by both literature and movies, this album aims to convey a series of images or short moments through affecting and melancholy compositions.
“I think this is the bleakest solo work I’ve done,” says Amini. Written during a period of severe depression, this album conveys that moment when suddenly everything feels darker, even though externally nothing has changed. It’s a heavy, harsh, and dynamic work, where processed guitars, harsh electronics, and granular synthesis converge to form impenetrable walls of noise.
9T Antiope (the duo of Sara Bigdeli Shamloo and Nima Aghiani) and Amini are long-time friends and frequent collaborators, but Harmistice is their first collaborative album. It was carefully developed by the trio over the course of about a year, both in person in Paris as well as remotely. Released by Hallow Ground earlier this year, it’s a record full of stark contrasts. Harsh industrial textures sit alongside Shamloo’s clear voice; high screeching frequencies make way for spurts of deafening distorted bass.
One of a triptych of collaborative records created by Amini and writer Matt Finney, Second Shift deals with the awkward, often destructive memories of puberty, love, and sexuality. Finney speaks with a distant, hushed voice, as Amini’s grainy synthetic pieces, string arrangements, and samples explore the themes from a sonic perspective.