Born in New York, now living and working in Copenhagen, artist, composer and playwright Soho Rezanejad has been firmly on the cutting edge since her 2018 debut ‘Six Archetypes’ melted hearts and minds with its ambient synth-pop brilliance.
The follow-up, the two-part ‘Honesty Without Compassion Is Brutality’ in 2019 and earlier this year, saw Rezanejad dive head-first into a more abstract, sample-rich sound.
And this journey is continued with ‘Perform and Surrender’, a remarkable record created and inspired by her time touring ‘Six Archetypes’ in 2018 and 2019, a journey that took in Copenhagen, Vienna, Helsingør, Munich, Montreal, Toronto, St Petersburg, Tromsø and Nantes. On tour, she would spend the day composing short pieces and capturing sounds from the city she found herself in. These recordings have become ‘Perform and Surrender’ and Rezanejad’s aim is nothing less than to distil the character of each city in the tracks.
The album begins with ‘Perform’ – over a minute of uncompromising industrial distortion that sounds like a robotic insect buzzing close to your ear – and ends with the mournful vocals and gentle piano of ‘Sleepless Solitude’.
There’s a feeling of endlessness, of infinite space and time, most strikingly on Surrender’s 12 minutes of glacial ambience. A single line – ‘Become part of me’ – rises from the maelstrom of ‘Perform’, and the song moves from jittery, washed-out drum patterns and layers of synth to the cries of birds morphing into metallic shrieks and shreds of vocal harmony.
‘Absence’ features haunting strings and vocal flourishes, while ‘Half The Shore’ and ‘Hera’ take dreampop guitar lines straight from Slowdive’s ambient classic ‘Pygmalion’. There are snatches of poetry, sounding like they’ve been recorded on a 1980s answer machine, on ‘Stages I’ and ‘Stages II’.
‘Perform and Surrender’ is hauntingly beautiful. Rezanejad says she “lost someone very dear to me” at the time of the recordings, and her grief seems to occupy every space and shadow of the album. It’s much more present than the cities whose spirits she attempts to distil.
It’s not an easy listen. But it’s a richly rewarding one.