Kiosk - “Eshghe Sorat”

Bamahang Productions (Canada)
2007 (1386)

The trio of Kiosk consists of Arash Sobhani, Shahrouz Molaei and Ali Kamali. The name Kiosk comes from the lifeguard booths by the beaches and was first chosen for their underground jamming spot in Iran. Unfortunately, despite numerous requests, I never got the debut of Kiosk “Aadame Mamooli” in time for a review! Now however, thanks to Bamahang Productions, the highly anticipated follow up entitled “Eshghe Sorat” reached me just in time. Arash Sobhani, the co-founder/songwriter of the surprisingly popular alternative band Kiosk, who reluctantly turned into a singer once the project didn’t find a willing or wanted vocalist to perform the songs, was a former member of the experimental Raze Shab project in Iran. In Kiosk, just like in his former band, he aims to convert the American ROCK’n’BLUES into Persian without damaging the music or to be forced to submit to generic traps of MAINSTREAM Persian music! Kiosk intends to make a conception of Persian ROCK not only possible but also practical! Arash says that he was attracted by the sound and voice of the “sultans of swing”, Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler years ago and was charmed by his way with the electric guitar. He asserts that even though ROCK and that Dire Straits-ian style in particular is not his main source of influence anymore after years of trying to learn his technique and tricks by emulating him as much as possible in music and vocal style, the sound-alike tendency has become unwillingly inflicted! Something which Arash realises and explains that while he consciously and unconsciously had tried to distant himself from Knopfler and the band the strong influences have had a way to get him back to square one!

“Eshghe Sorat” features 11 tracks with half the material written in Iran and half in Canada by mainly Arash himself (he still visits Iran, unlike what many think!) along with bbkhiav, Anoush Khazeni, Davar, Mehrdad Menbari and Hamid Ajayebi. The album is released on the Canada-based home of the Iranian alternative acts, namely Bamahang Productions. The design of the cover and its lettering is refreshing and very relevant to the music, reminiscent of the style of the domestic graphic artist Bijan Seyfouri who does many covers for books and magazines in Iran. It should be mentioned that although seemingly the same, there is a distinct difference between the “parental advisory” sticker on the album and the English original! While the English asserts “explicit” as its reason Kiosk assert “mobtazal”, which means banal and prosaic, as the reason why parents should be warned! It gives a sarcastic twist to the entire project and refers to the previous statement by Arash that our is in dire need of a professional guild of critics to help raise the quality of the products by rejecting those with sole commercial ambition.

The album starts off with the title-track. A song on the fast pace and hectic life of the modern man! The ambition to take detours and beat other in as many thing as possible, even without proper competences! Thematically reminiscent of “Roozmarregi”. The traditional back up vocals came to as a result of indifferences in taste among the band members apparently! On a funny side note I must say that Ghorme Sabzi Pizza was something I already back in the 80’s called what the Iranian pizza joints served, not being serious of course, but apparently an Iranian in Italy has recently managed to throw together such a recipe and that with success!

“Bitarbiat“, the band wasn’t sure if this song was appropriate for this album or not since its blunt approach towards the obvious target could give the listeners a bit more than they could swallow! But as Arash says, he is cynical about the entire mass media and what could be a better way of showing it than mocking it one way or another? In this track Arash and the boys show their BLUES/AMERICANA flavour with the Bob Dylan-ian twist!

Next comes a JAZZy BLUES song about the phenomenon of social misplacements and role confusions! “Hame Ragham Mojood Ast” is about confused individuals who do not accept their designated place and limitations in life, instead utilise a non-existing talent for other purposes! Something which is commonly practised in our culture where our profession seldom lies where our passion, not to mention talent, lies. From Iranian politicians to musicians!

The fast paced “Afsoos” tackles the ironies of relationships in a song with a GITANO/BALKAN undertone to its JAZZ and ROCK swing! A well-placed relief from the political reflections of the album.

“Shab Raft“ is a song written by Arash long ago in Iran, its existence on this album was disputed by fellow band members due to its romantic theme but was argued to display the bands versatility and thus approved! POLYPHONIC CONTINENTAL and GITANO inspired.

You’ve surely seen “To Kojaayi”’s clever and refreshing video! The song is an upbeat BALKAN FOLK inspired tune with an equally fresh and CATCHY flow! Very refreshing!

The real-estate business is lucrative and loopholed all around the world, Iran’s Mahzars are no exception if not its sheer manifestation! “Kolangi Ghaabele Sokoonat” reflects the constant dilemma of human logistic and housing! With the foundation, the motherland in the hands of land-mongers, as its bigger picture in my opinion!

“Minibusse Sabz” is a BLUES song about the every-day-life’s tendency to find a way and go on, despite social injustices and the society on the verge of breakdown!

Next comes “Lalayi Baraaye MaadarBozorg”, a short instrumental piece for the guitar.

“Dayi Jaan Napoleon” is an impeccable work of literature which reflects the Iranian society, culture and mentality perfectly. Regardless of contemporary influences! I first read Iraj Pezeshkzad’s masterpiece when I was just a kid and it influenced, effected and inspired me tremendously. Being cross-referenced to in may popular works such as Hatef‘s “Teryaak“! Kiosk‘s “Amoo Asdollah” is a clever tribute by representatives of a generation that frequently quotes and refers to the timeless novel in its every-day jargon!

And this engaging collection rounds off with “Zoghale khoob“, a Daniel Lanois style of AMERICANA with references to actual people in the life of band members!

Arash believes that he yet has to find his individuality in terms of style in music but he also believes that he has managed to stay away from the sound-alike tendency which reigned the debut. The fact is that his Knopfler-esque tone and ornamentation were there in “Aadame Mamooli” and even though Arash likes to believe that he has somehow fled its flair, it is still equally present and dominant in “Eshghe Sorat”! I’m not gonna lie, this sound-alike tendency sticks out like a sore thumb! Alarmingly red and throbbing, especially when the rest of the material and the image are to such extent unique and exclusive! to me this careless emulation and unshakable association drag down the level of experience! Kiosk is simply TOO important for the Iranian music to be so indifferent about this factor, carrying around such a large target on its forehead! In regards to the music on the other hand Kiosk has managed to get away from the big-band sound and the electric guitars to a more Bob Dylan-ian MINIMALISTIC one-man-band approach to every branch of AMERICANA! A very positive progress indeed!

Nuclear energy isn’t poetic says Arash, and he strives for a lyrical, musical and aesthetic harmony in the expression of that blunt collage of social criticism! I have often discussions with amateur ROCK aspirants who argue that the rigid Persian language is the antithesis of ROCK music and that’s why they fail and cant succeed fusing it with the genre! My counter argument has always been that nothing is really incompatible with anything when it comes to music! Everything is compatible and convertible! You just have to have the right “adapter” for it to work! And Kiosk is the living proof for my argument. Kiosk is despite its alternative core and aspiration a project with a potential to become commercially fully successful! Since the music and the band enjoy that appearance that is needed for such appeal! And with the right amount of cosmetics applied Kiosk can very well not only Iranianise American styles but popularise artistic values as well! In other words Kiosk is the vessel that can bring alternative to mainstream! Even though claiming that they don’t got new things to say, since every topic in history is recycled, Kiosk’s music reflects the spirit of agony and frustration of a generation lost in a labyrinth of cultural paradoxes! It doesn’t blow off steam violently, instead it BREATHES peacefully! It inhales and most importantly …exhales! Socially and culturally aware and critical music that is humoristic and laid-back in its approach rather than vigilante. Kiosk nags and complains openly, but they do so in recommended daily doses! I share this constructive cynicism which should not be mistaken for pessimism, and believe that many others too can and do relate to it. This level of ventilation is necessary for a healthy existence in a world that doesn’t always slow down so that you can catch- and keep up!

Kiosk’s music reaches far beyond the coffee shops, the undisputed domain of pretentious intellectuals who worship the likes of Shahkar! The same down-to-earth factor makes his intellectual honesty and artistry acceptable and accessible for the common or “ordinary man” and the masses. “Eshghe Sorat” is a HIGHLY AMBITIOUS, not a bit pretentious but SARACSTICALLY CRITICAL approach to the Iranian way of thinking and living, our society and culture! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as a COLLECTORS ITEM to all those analyst-minded who seek for an INFINITE SUBSTANCE in the music!

Note: Thanks to Babak and Bamahang Productions for providing us with the album.

Overall Performance: ++
Artistic Ambition: +++
Commercial Potential: ++
Technical Quality: ++
Aesthetic Presentation: +++
Ethical Adherence: +++
[ +++ > --- ]

Review by: Pourya E.

Reviews described herein are mere opinions, and must be construed in that manner only! In other words they are not absolute!