Review: Babak Ahteshamipour – Specter, Spectrum, Speculum

Synthesisers crunched in trapezoidic arpeggiations, voices in service of nonsense.

Review: Babak Ahteshamipour – Specter, Spectrum, Speculum


“Still laughing while crying, Still crying while laughing, Still having thoughts while not thinking, Still thinking while having no thoughts…”

Every act is rendered absurd, becomes its own antithesis, sheds its origins. With an accompanying text that remarks on the inescapable, contortive superpowers of capitalism, this album suspends itself in liminal strangeness, resigned to the futility of trying to express anything of objective substance. Instead, Babak Ahteshamipour hurls all sorts of electronic gloops, vocal babble and wordplay into the no-gravity ether, oscillating between slurred fatigue and screaming despair. Melodies are intentionally avoided, with pianos in limping atonal loops and synthesisers crunched into trapezoidic arpeggiations. Everything changes when it repeats ("it is eternal, it is a turtle..."), slipping into superficial loops of self-reference. The results are aptly duplicitous, and the album both parodies its wretched circumstances and tries to escape them. It rolls around in the nonsense of life under capitalism, and in doing so, delivers something too knotty and ambiguous to be twisted into service of the system at large.

There’s often the sense that Ahteshamipour is trying to make himself (and others) laugh. One key trait is that sounds often moves with a cartoon-ish whooshing or zipping; synthesisers do rubber somersaults or splat against the ceiling, while voices are propelled into halls of mirrors and rendered unintelligible. “Achromatic Visions Of A Black Rainbow” feels like a placeholder track for a mid-production low-budget sci-fi, and one can imagine those spiralling chimes placed in accompaniment to a particularly corny establishing shot in the opening minutes, the camera tilting up toward the stars. During the eight-minute “Haunted Nomads Roaming on Synthetic Terrains”, chants of “om” are sampled and turned into jerking rhythms, bouncing amidst synthesised bat-wing-flutters and laser guns, wryly gutted of any meditative potential. Perhaps this is a despairing, dead-end “ha ha” – laughing because anything else feels futile. Or perhaps it’s a brief, shock-realignment between body and mind, succinctly expressing the hideous weirdness of modern living and stealing an endorphin hit in the process.