Friday, March 5, 2010

The Impossible Music Sessions: Cruel Black Dove plays The Plastic Wave

"This is the sound of The Plastic Wave not performing," announced the moderator to a still room. The song began to play as the audience stood silently watching an empty stage, some wiping away a few stray tears as the synths kicked in and the inaugural night of The Impossible Music Sessions came to a close.

Sponsored by, a musical Amnesty International of sorts, The Impossible Music Sessions "feature the artists who cannot appear and the music they are not free to make." The first installment at Littlefield in Brooklyn showcased the Iranian band The Plastic Wave as performed by Cruel Black Dove.

Formed in 2008 by Saeid Nadjafi and Maral, The Plastic Wave have clashed with Iran's notoriously oppressive political regime. As a woman, it's illegal for Maral to play in front of a mixed gender audience, especially while singing in English, and doing so eventually cost her and her bandmate time in jail for performing their melodic, trip hop inspired electronic rock. Although the strength of the band's demo got them accepted into 2009's SXSW festival, they were unable to obtain the visas to go.

The night began with a video introducing The Plastic Wave before moderator Austin Dacey interviewed Cruel Black Dove. Shortly thereafter, Maral joined in via video conference, describing her band's history and the Iranian musical underground. She was soon supported by in-person commentary from singer Raam of fellow Iranian band Hypernova. Having opened for the likes of The Sisters of Mercy and IAMX, Raam is in a unique position to discuss the perils and triumphs of starting out as a rock band in Tehran. He emphasized the universal desire to partake in the inherent freedom of rock 'n' roll and described his ability to play (and stay) in the States as fulfilling The American Dream. Tried and true sentiments to be sure, but ever so powerful when voiced in this context and from his perspective.

When the live set finally began, it was a moving kind of multi-layered voyeurism, as CBD churned out "War of Others," "[RE]action," and "My Clothes on Other Bodies" with their signature dark, synthrock grind. The band played for the audience and to the lone image of Maral on the laptop, which was positioned to face the stage. The audience in turn watched both Cruel Black Dove and the projected face of Maral, as she watched four people whom she had never met interpret her songs. Although she and her bandmates were simultaneously disenfranchised and disembodied due to geography and circumstance, the mediums that carried the message were both virtual and palpable, synthetic and very real. The set ended, fittingly, with a powerful rendition of the Cruel Black Dove original, "War Son."

Saeid joined the chat after the live show, commenting on his involvement in this historically significant evening. Despite technical difficulties, his excitement was infectious. While the event could have been far more volatile if fraught with the fervercy of political specifics, the fact that it kept a focus on the simple and singular power of music made far more of an impact. It wasn't about 'issues' but about sonics and soul. The first of The Impossible Music Sessions did not push ideology, but simply disseminated the visceral aurality of Tehran by way of Brooklyn.

Photos by Boris Gasin.

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