Review | Songlines

Crystal Lexicon

Rating: ★★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details


Mohammadali Najafpour


Kélk Artists


There really is some excellent and inspiring stuff coming out of Tehran these days and Crystal Lexicon is no exception. Najafpour plays tar (skin-covered lute) on this, his ninth album, opening with the dreamlike intoning of wide harmony voices and rubato tar melody. Other instruments are present, but tar predominates in this outstanding original work that seems to sit in that liminal space between sleep and wakefulness.

Though the backing on Crystal Lexicon is minimal, it is noticeable when it drops away, leaving Najafpour’s pure solitary tar, such as on ‘Amidst Wind and Mist’. All of the tracks have meteorological titles: ‘An Incessant Downpour’, ‘A Cloud of Sorrow’. If these names seem a little chilly, I think that’s intentional; the arrangements are sparse and the solo sections are full of echoing gaps. There are many similarities with much of the new Iranian music appearing on the 30M label – traditional music reimagined and re-composed into fragmented vignettes of time and place that shift with hazy uncertainty and unsettle the listener. This is perhaps slightly less trippy than some of that but no less pensive, and it is done with fewer filters and effects.

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