You know that ultimate writer’s copout, “Words fail me”? It’s an awful construction and an even worse admission: No, buddy—you failed words. Get out of the game if you can’t formulate sentences in any situation. But Dariush Dolat-Shahi’s “Zahab (Tar and Electronic)” damn near made me think that I’d have to utter this lamentable cliché, that I’d lack the verbiage to capture the unique greatness of this piece. I try to do it justice below, but I realize I fall short. Just listen to the damn thing already.
“Zahab” is an extraordinary musique concrète tapestry of minimalism, birdsong, riversong, frogsong, experimental electronic sound design, and traditional Iranian music that morphs with baffling, dream-like logic over its 13 minutes. Wherever it goes, it surprises and fascinates. Had this song and the album from which it springs, Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar, been around when Nurse With Wound’s Steven Stapleton made his original listening list, Dolat-Shahi surely would be on it. "Zahab" is one of the greatest, most confounding musical achievements I've ever heard.