by Maja Staka
If you listen to even one of the songs on HundredMillionThousand’s LP on Spotify, you’ll understand why an album release performance was so overdue. The Edmonton-based electronic artist’s music is so heart-felt and nuanced he deserves a whole damn concert to himself.
Luckily, 9910 was able to host the event last Thursday along with bands Nehiyawakband and Softcure, who each preceded the performance. The venue, which parallels gastropub and sister business The Common is both nightclub and event space, although on this particular evening, it seemed more like someone’s basement on a Saturday night.
HundredMillionThousand, or just Noel Fanaeian to his friends, took his time walking around the room before the performance to talk to anyone who wanted to comment on his music or buy a vinyl. There were flashing lights, cocktails being shaken and crowds of close friends and relatives chattering between sets and jumping excitedly at every song change. Even the small cover didn’t ruin the personal vibe. And that was kind of the point. HundredMillionThousand’s album isn’t meant for a strict crowd, its music that every generation can enjoy – a medley of images and sounds that reflect the artist’s diverse group of friends, Filipino and Iranian upbringing and time spent in places like BlackDog’s hip hop mecca – underdog and Edmonton’s hippy chai mecca – Remedy.
There’s obviously a lot of rap, some eerie and unmistakably byzantine choral music in the aptly named ‘Serbians’, some modern yogic notes in ‘D’om’ and tribal East-Asian beats in the impossibly catchy ‘Rescue Feeling’. That said, the star of the show is ‘Yalda’, which features all kinds of synth mixed with Persian vocals evoking classical Persian music and pre-revolution pop.
Though many of us don’t speak Persian, sorrow and anger are depicted so beautifully in Yalda that connecting emotionally to the lyrics isn’t remotely difficult. It’s also Yalda which appropriately ended the night after a long stream of photos and video clips depicting strong Iranian women (as well at the men who would rather see them behind bars). The theme of the night – next to turning the hell up – was the plight of the Iranian woman, who lays claim to a rich artistic history and deserves more recognition for her role in everything that current Iranian art represents.
At one particularly memorable point in the night, the already dark room was filled with people holding their breath as the story of Gordafarid unfolded on the screen behind HundredMillionThousand’s setup. The clips, which come from the Movie Nagl – e – Gordafarid or ‘The story of Gordafarid’ directed by Hadi Afarideh show a Naqqali (Musical Narration) which recounts the story of a heroine from ‘The Book of Kinds’, a poetic opus comparable to the Odyssey. Typically, Naqqali forbid women from performing, but Fatemeh Habibazid, a student of museum studies in Tehran, is hoping to change this cultural and societal rule – and many others, by portraying Gordafarid.
The effect of inserting clips from this documentary between songs was seamless and showed the same lack of “rules” that reign over the entire album. One review of lp1 lists it as being ‘volatile’ and ‘probably unable to sell’. I and many others would disagree. Music, and in this case an album release performance, doesn’t have to be clear-cut. It can involve several genres and textures and inhibit a variety of responses. As demonstrated by hundreds of fellow musicians and producers, musical performances can also involve several media formats, which for HundredMillionThousand meant the incorporation of feminist imagery that reflects his attitudes towards the women in his life and his gratitude towards Iranian music, along with experimental and industrial beats that the artist himself enjoys. Clearly, hybridity is the name of the game – and for HundredMillionThousand, that can only mean more listeners.
Photography courtesy of Victoria Diaz.