Listen Now: Music Spotlight on SADAF

Listen Now: Music Spotlight on SADAF

This week's music spotlight is on SADAF, a multimedia artist and musician crafting chaotic, improvised soundscapes.

This week's music spotlight is on SADAF, a multimedia artist and musician crafting chaotic, improvised soundscapes.

Text: E.R. Pulgar

Every week, V shines a light on an up-and-coming artist. This week, get to know SADAF, a cinephilic multimedia artist and musician soon to release her debut EP SHELL. The Iranian-born NYC-based singer's eclectic sound comes from a unique take on music: full improvisation. Through this channeling of her own energy and lack of preparedness, SADAF draws on her own emotions to craft a chaotic, primordial soundscape that draws as much from her inner turmoil as it does from the tumultuous world she inhabits. We sat down with SADAF to discuss the upcoming EP, lead single "THINGY", and the primal scream that is her sound.

What's the idea behind SHELL?

The title alludes to emptiness yet your music is sonically rich; tell us about those contrasts." The album deals with questions regarding “the surface”, how to construct a frame that things can fall into or out of. You can also look at it as identity formation/destruction; which is why I used a burnt self-portrait for the cover. I wanted to perform this symbolic purging, but obviously the image isn’t burnt all the way (and the face remains intact), so something like a skeleton key is still there. For me the Shell is the husk of whatever is left once the protagonist is done with it. It can also be about an extreme of neurotic inward looking that wipes out all reality; the process of emptying and filling up, that occurs both metaphorically and physically.

When I heard the EP, Crystal Castles and Grimes immediately came to mind, so I was surprised to read that your influences stem from the likes of Wesley Willis and the Shaggs. How has this unique musical lineage affected your sound?

I’m really surprised to hear that. I think because the composition is very layered, it is possible to draw references to a number of artists working in electronic music. My music is always being compared to something different each time, which is kind of cool, as it means that because it is not fitting into a preconceived structure, it is possible to project your own imagination onto it. But in terms of the Shaggs or Wesley Willis, those influences have very little to do with what my music actually sounds like. It’s more the intension or attitude that I’m interested in. If you heard my influences directly in the work, that would be just a copy or karaoke, and I wouldn’t see the point in that.

You've mentioned the influence of Middle Eastern music being a major influence on you while also being underrated; can you point to any artists in specific?

I don’t think Middle Eastern music is underrated, I think that as a DJ it is something that I don’t hear that often in the parties that I go to in NYC. So for me it’s about sharing it with a group of people that don’t really have access to it. It’s about intersection of culture; curating sounds that will be new for the listeners I play for. There are too many artists to name, but I do a radio show on Know Wave and I dedicated one episode to the Persian music that I grew up listening to, like my own survey or beginners intro.

The record is often choppy, but it's never unpleasant to listen to. As an artist and an improviser, where does this chaotic, primordial sound come from?

Nothing is planned; it comes from me. That chaotic primordial thing is part of my inner life, and it comes out through improvisation. I don’t have control over what content is produced if I chose to work spontaneously. It’s cool because instead of seeing a shrink I can just improvise crazy unhinged music and then think about what made me do it. It’s a cathartic practice like screaming therapy in the alternative mental health movements that happened in the 70’s.

"THINGY" stood out to me on the album, and serves as the lead single. Can you tell me about the improvised process that molded the song?

The song places you in an imagined script, where you can substitute the characters for almost anything. Is Thingy the object of desire, or the desiring subject? The object of affection could be a dog, a lover or a vacuum cleaner or a new car. Through this interplay, we can see that the obstacle keeping the subject away from the desired thingy is money; economics. So in the end the fulfillment of desire becomes a nostalgic fantasy, and the scene ends without the satisfaction of that projected desire. So the song is about desire and wish fulfillment, along with maybe some object fetishism thrown in.

In your i-D interview, you said that the record blends your reality with a fictional one; I'm wondering if you can speak further to that sentiment.

I am interested in Auto-fiction. I wanted to construct an autobiographical fiction that drew from personal experience and then take it somewhere totally different. I think it is a form that is able to access a certain honesty that is not achievable with simply telling the “truth”; I find that the subjectivity of situations and points of view make it extremely difficult to relate a personal story. I’ve decided that personal stories are almost always fiction, and fiction has the potential to access a sort of hidden universal truth in the right circumstances.

You're also a performance artist; how does this relate or inform your musical performances?

Yes, I’m also a visual artist. I don’t really believe in medium specific work. I don’t need to declare a vocation, in fact I find that really boring. I think it’s more fun to be able to switch from film to poetry to music to drawing without this ridiculous need to assert professionalism. I only believe in “who” the person is and not “what” the person does. As long as there is a unified aesthetic or story, then I’m not so concerned with titles.

The SHELL EP is about to be released into the world. What are you most excited for people to take away from the record as a whole?

I guess I hope to encourage a way of making music that is extremely self reliant and personal, and without this pressure to produce something perfect that fits in neatly into the current music trends. The process of making this was like making a drawing, where all the elements are coming from me, and I think anyone could do that, but music, similar to the fashion industry is very much about knock offs of what sells, and even though I’m very much a guilty consumer, I would like to see more of a re-emergence of an idiosyncratic invention of style through experimentation.

SADAF's record is out on Outside Insight now. Find "Shell" here.

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