Years ago when I started writing reviews of Iranian music, I wanted to kick off a new tradition of deep, tough, and fair analysis of our new alternative musical output. seeing sites like Zirzamin come out was a sense of pride. At the time, Kiosk was one of the first bands I thought worthy of serious analysis.
Up until that time, our music was sadly nothing more than mere 6/8 drivel, which while fun on a warm summer drive to Chaloos, or Santa Monica, starts to really drill a hole in your head when you are forced to listen to it for say, I don’t know, like maybe 30 years!
Blessed was the day when I found Kiosk. Later O-Hum rattled it’s own saber a bit, but like the classic Iroony-bazi was soon racked and plagued by the all too familiar internal “Da-Va”. Which is OK. I was personally tired of Hafez-Rock by the second album anyway. As a gimmick it wore out quickly.
I never got on the feel good New-Islam-Pop-Shit that Arian Band cranked out, and I was too busy trying to decide if the lead singer was really gay or not, to pay much attention to them. Even the Chris de-Burgh scam was de-Boring. Same for Benyamin who somehow has managed to get this far, on the crime of autotuning.
After a couple of years of championing the new Iranian rock, I watched as my fellow reviewers took the mantle, and continued to reach out for new progressive Iranian music to report on, and introduce to a starved audience.
But sadly, it seems that my brethren have since waned. Reviews now amount to some tracks and a badly acted YouTube video shot on a digital camera slap-edited on a laptop. Underground Iranian Rock turns out is not actually “underground” as has been mis-advertised, but more Basement Rock, usually played in the large and often wired for sound, basements of rich homes in northern Tehran and not played and listened to dangerously in the underground illegal cafes and halls out of earshot of the Basij, as one would dream and hope. Underground music is music played and listened to, in spite of the authorities, not music played in comfortable private homes, for the rich crowd hosting a by invitation-only pseudo-mini-rave. Again, as depicted on YouTube
With all the comings and goings, the drama of Iranians of rock, not even allowing themselves the time to become rock stars before they fade, the false promise of bands like O-Hum, 127, and especially the flicker, flash and poof of Hypernova, there’s not much to get excited about. Maybe the Cheshm I am Zadding on it with this piece, will change all of that.
So, as much as I hoped I wouldn’t have to, I’m back with my review of Kiosk‘s recent album “Triple Distilled.” I feel I’ve given everyone enough of a chance to do justice to an album worthy of our collective listen.
In a churning sea of come and go bands, Kiosk has thankfully remained consistent, in that each successive album pushes the boundaries of what is considered normal, but more importantly Kiosk pushes me to to try and make some sort of sense of it and I grow from it.
OK, enough controversial banter, onto the review.
First off the name, “Triple Distilled”. Obviously referring to late night drinking sessions of the yore of pre-revolution Iran, specifically those in the southern part of Tehran’s red light and the accompanying glorious Hayedeh cabaret districts, sessions one’s father and uncles can attest to far better than we ever could.
The reference also refers to the incredible quality, clarity and tone of the album. This is one of those, that I wish was available on vinyl. That ripped MP3 copy you got from your friend who downloaded it from the net, instead of buying the album, is going to sound very damn good to you, and trust me, the CD is even better, but vinyl would have been divine. Divinyl.
What makes the mixing of this album so incredible is that a lot of it is from the Live performance recorded at the famed Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Yoshi’s is a mainstay iconic Jazz venue, and the ability of Kiosk to get into it, never mind actually be allowed to play on stage is a feat noteworthy, on it’s own. This album now shoots to the very top of a high quality aural experience.
The songs are familiar, remakes from previous albums including the first Kiosk album, “Adameh Mamooli” which to date is still my favorite Kiosk record, as obvious as the Mark Knopfler Dire Straits homage is, be damned.
Revised, and refined depictions sound fresher and more exciting than their originals. You know, exactly what you get when you triple distill rough street liquor into a fine brandy.
What is more, is that the guest performers on this album are nothing short of awe inspiring and stellar choices, that make the “distillation” results even smoother. Greats like Jason Ditzian’s brilliant yet strangely familiar Iranian sounding clarinet, and the instantly individually identifiable guitar work by Bruno Pelletier-Bacquaert and Paul Mehling “Pazzo”, compliment Sobhani’s own contributions, proving that this body of work, is not only transferable, but opens up an all new interpretation by these honored guests, making the sum of their parts, once again, greater than the whole.
Arash Sobhani’s guitar work is by now, by far, a most established instrument. His licks are so well timed, they sometimes sound off beat, until he reels them in bringing them back into line again, like a lion tamer, letting his roaring red lion off the leash, and then pulling it back just as the jaws snap shut, mere inches from your face.
My favorite member of Kiosk though is Ardalan Payvar, who handles the backing vocals, keyboards and the now trademark Kiosk accordion work. Like a nervously anxious 16 year old girl, I yearn for the day when he will deliver me to a 60’s rude rock slap organ riff, which hopefully with this description will inspire and convince Sobhani to write one for him, and realize a return to a new “Adameh Gheyreh-Mamooli” exploration, hopefully by the next album. Sooner if possible. Because I just really really want that.
Newcomer Tara Kamangar (no relation to Arash) brings a rock sensibility to of all instruments, the freaking violin. No, I know. The rock violin is a frequent band mainstay these days, but other than when you are wasted at a Dave Matthews concert, when has it ever really worked? In the case of Kiosk, and especially this album, why Yes, Miss Moneypenny, sometimes the Bull wins.
Sadly like most good Iranian bands. Kiosk suffers from what I will call “Geographic Limitations”, in that the well-raised drummer Shahrouz Molaie and the wonderfully fun to watch bass player Ali Kamali are based out of Toronto, a place I am starting to really get tired of hearing about (Wait! Bass players are fun to watch?) so they don’t live in the Bay Area, and have to be imported like Salmon, for recordings and performances.
Sure, for Sobhani to have to arrange costly travel from Canada, but mostly for us fans who would really like to see Kiosk performing and trying out some great new music at a local club every weekend, and not once every 2 years, even if we are willing to fly to Sydney or worse, Sweden. Personally I will pledge $30 (2 albums) a year if Sobhani would do that. Would you?
I’m simply not going to review the tracks. That will only make it less likely you will buy an album that by now you should be ashamed of not owning. If you already have it, you already know anyway, so what’s the point?
What I will say is that this album has a so much depth and layers on it, that it requires a minimum 3-5 listen-throughs to really appreciate all the detail and hard work that has gone into this latest evidence, that in spite of Iran, Iranian culture is evolving nicely thank you very much.
So at the end of all this diatribe, we have for your consideration, Kiosk’s latest album, “Triple Distilled”. Certainly a metaphor for the fine spirit it portends to be, but more, a solid foot forward, by a band that has been my privilege to witness come of age.