CD-R, Audiotrauma, 2009
As one of the world’s most ancient surviving religions, Zoroastrianism has a mythic quality about it. With theorized formative links to both Eastern and Western religious traditions, it holds an historical importance unrealized by most. A newcomer to the audiotrauma label, Amesha Spenta appropriates the Zoroastrian concept of the same name, one that is defined as an Avestan language term for a class of divinity or divine concepts, and translates as “bounteous immortal”. What this accomplishes for Amesha Spenta (the progressive dark electronic music project, not the belief system of Nietzsche’s protagonist) is unclear, besides the obvious: lending a certain inscrutable aura to already exotic French industrial/electro.
The self-titled album progresses from its martial beginnings (the hard-hitting “Frantic”, unmatched in its upfront display of power) to encompass chilling undercurrents, formidable rhythms, unsettling tones and spiritual ruminations, all within the space of seven tracks. This excludes two additional tracks, remixes by Sonic Area and Zenta, respectively. Amesha Spenta’s brief collection of slow-churning beats, grinding instruments and billowing atmospheres is a bit manic in its intensity, its vision a troubled and haunted one that captures esoteric cultural references with sacred songs of prayer (or so one assumes). The vocalizations in “Formalin” call to prophets of old, while the irresistible manipulated pattern of voices in “Eneagram” seems to resonate from the erstwhile center of the world, the Iranian plateau. Vocals and samples aside, the album’s guiding dark ambient textures are undeniable, its attention to sedate tempos a measure of its confidence. Nevertheless, it is a mystery why Amesha Spenta chooses to abbreviate compositions that could be developed, expanded, permitted to evolve… There is a good amount of wasted potential here.
Regardless, “Amesha Spenta” as an album is relentless, even in its ambient passages, and however sedate the bpm might be. It is dense, secretive, and part of a floating realm, suspended between the occidental and oriental with chime-like melodies and shivering tones, supported by spine tingling beat structures. Bass effects – the spaced hits in “Miasma” or the grooving pulses of “Prognosis” – are admirably executed and help to build both a sense of otherness and supernatural awe. Drifting, ambient “Apostasy” could easily revolve without end, eternally contemplating millennia of belief. As for the remixes, Sonic Area accomplishes an admirable treatment of “Prognosis”, maintaining the track’s essential energy and even increasing its weight, while Zenta mangles “Eneagram”, one of the album’s standouts, in a poorly sketched rendition.
— Dutton Hauhart