Siavash Amini Serus

[Room40; 2019]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: somnabulism, rapid eye movement
Others: The Haxan Cloak, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Blanchot

Sleep is both the most refreshing and distressing of pastimes. There are few better feelings than sliding into air-conditioned sheets after a long day, yet transitioning into unconsciousness can feel impossible when anxiety is present. Why is it so difficult to avoid the pantry when you’re slightly hungry, but so easy to lay awake and exhausted in a cloud of self-reflection?

It’s our fraught relationship with night that inspired Siavash Amini’s Room40 outing, Serus. Specifically, it’s an attempt to replicate the interstitial period between “night,” falling asleep, and the “other night,” which theorist Maurice Blanchot described as “the dream… the region where pure resemblance reigns.” Can you really prepare yourself to enter that unnerving space, familiar enough to register and unnerving enough to soak your pillow in cold sweat? Is peeling back the ego worth eight hours of rest? Serus revels in that uncertainty, pitting nocturnal string arrangements against treacherous clouds of fuzz.

Whirring detachedly like the box fan in your bedroom, “A Recollection of the Disappeared” sets up Serus’s rest/restlessness dichotomy, opening with a metallic bass drone and whip-like electric pulses that pierce the darkness. Amini works in prickly textures, mimicking the crackle of synaptic activity as the brain prepares for sleep. The soundscape eventually deadens around its halfway point, clearing clutter as violin played by Nima Aghiani groans like it’s part of a Haxan Cloak track, then sprawls out, then finds footing, then sprawls out again in cinematic fashion. These dreams are movies, to paraphrase a Built to Spill lyric, and the plot is littered with twists. As Amini shifts from drowsy ambience to slithering electronics on “Semblance,” or caulks “All That Remained” with a gravelly seal, one feels the urge to turn a pillow to its cooler side and roll over.

Despite these detours, Serus is a generally pleasant listen that could do well to tap into Amini’s more nightmarish impulses. The record’s vast orchestration is worth curling up into — enough to avoid raging against its voltaic depictions of “other night.”

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