It was only this morning I was pondering the idea of “unreleased tracks”. These aren’t always the pieces that fail to break the creator’s quality threshold (otherwise, what would be the purpose of releasing them at all?), but outcasts that don’t belong within the context of full length records. They are deviations off the path that were corrected rather than pursued, forming prophetic droplets of what could have become of an artist’s creative development. It’s like a photo album of all the holidays you almost took. This collection of previously unreleased material – designed to trace his progression across his music-making life – is my induction into the work of Porya Hatami, which is an interesting thought. Am I hearing the true journey of Hatami as an artist? Or is Phone To Logos an archive of abandoned opportunity, and the tracing of a chronology that wasn’t?
Regardless, it’s a beautiful collection of work. Field recordings feature prominently in the early stages, with birdsong and rushing water draped across the back of the stereo frame. In the foreground, pianos are processed into ripples and made to fold in on themselves, drowning in their own reverberant reflections and colliding with the slurp of their reversed equivalent. Like clouds, the melodies are occasionally shapely and distinguishable – with notes moving between chords in parallel – but otherwise dissipate into vague harmonic vapours, with hands left to roll bonelessly over the keys. The trembling tones of “Parachute” come down like light rain, with droplets of differing fidelity (immaculate realism, Dictaphone fuzz) splashing down to my left and right. The natural world permeates Hatami’s work, even when it isn’t explicitly present; not only for how instruments are gifted the characteristics of weather and gravitational flow, but for the general sense of ease and ecological coherence. Everything feels satisfyingly fateful. Instruments decay because their time has come, while harmonies align as though incessantly refined by earthly evolution.
He seems to possess a love for sounds as they are. Hatami embraces imperfect shapes: “Color Bars” and “’81” (both offcuts from his 2014 album, Arrivals And Departures) feature organ tones that slip and warble in pitch, coming perilously close to falling out of the tape altogether. Yet within Hatami’s work is a celebration of inconsistency, and instead of wielding these marks of decay in music that bemoans the onset of age, the textures feel effervescent in spite of their faults, embarking on tranquil and somewhat youthful swirls of major key. This sense of acceptance makes him a wonderful collaborator, and on the final three pieces – two with Arovane, one with Artificial Memory Trace – he wanders wilfully into places of darkness and loss. The dissonances and eerie delays on “Palais” bring to mind a labyrinthine network of subterranean caves, while “Sketch” is like watching the reflection of the moon dancing and rippling on the surface of pond water. Even these gloomier atmospheres are driven by Hatami’s meditative outlook, as he entrusts his partner to keep in safe in such hostile territory. In a way, Phone To Logos gathers all of those moments at which he permitted himself to be misguided – whether by a collaborator or internal urge – and accept the scenic deviation for what it is, safe in the knowledge that the path will ultimately correct itself.