Niyaz :: Niyaz
The debut album by Niyaz is such a delicious, intoxicating collection of songs, that it's a pity to have to reduce it to mere words. Their sound is described as "21st century folk music", and that's a start. The rolling thunder of frame drums and rippling tablas, reinforced by some tight drum programming, forms the base of these groove-driven pieces.
Multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian (of Axiom of Choice) anchors the melodies with taut, layered riffs on saz, tar, and guitar, while vocalist Azam Ali (formerly of Vas) just soars and swoops through some supple channeling of Urdu and Sufi poetry. Producer Carmen Rizzo, who's worked with artists as diverse as Ryuichi Sakamoto and Khaled, brings a subtle electronic edge to the music, always serving to complement the music, not taking it in some trendy dance-oriented direction.
The passion and gravitas of Persian music is always present, but Niyaz distills it into clear, infinitely focused 5-minute songs with unforgettable melodies, riding on controlled waves of tension and release. Some of Azam's harmonies -- particularly the closing track, "Minara" or the instant classic "Allahi Allah" -- have such power and beauty they'll leave you speechless. Fans of Dead Can Dance will certainly want to hear this, as will anyone with a taste for the more exotic hybrids of modern music.