Review: Aria Rostami - "Reform"

Aria Rostami - Reform
(2017 ZOOM LENS)

Bordered by bristly scrapes of percussion, Aria Rostami's Reform is a pulsating mass of disembodied voices, each individual vowel-sound flickering like the pale yellows of a scoreboard's bulbs. Though modeled on ZOOM LENS' signature nods to the refracted ambience of late-90s IDM, the San Franciscan producer's output is filtered through a more vibrant, optimistic lens than the steely output of his labelmates who often embrace brutalist cityscapes that toe the line between utopia and dystopia. 

Rostami's sound design is more inspired by nature than imposed by his own future-techno will. Reform's 10 instrumental cuts capture the echo of whispered melodies, bouncing off of dripping stalactites or dissolving into weaves of low-hanging foliage. It's intimate, not desolate. Opening track "Lowered Intentions", for example, recalls a more humid, habitable version of Aphex Twin's "Flim". Sampled oohs stew in their own residual reverb, nudged forward by the four-on-the-floor kick of an undulating house beat. The track is composed of just a few elements, but thanks to many-tentacled polyrhythms and the thick swoon of Rostami's vocoder drones, it makes for a vast, hypnotic introduction. 

The LP is at its most satisfying when it ventures into pure ambience, especially on "Thanks, Ben". Rostami's synths pace back and forth like droplets of new age piano as a digital slide guitar leaves contrails across the canvas. His composition borders on baroque, escalating the sort of coarse timbres that i-fls might use to orchestral heights. "Beauty Mark" is another highlight, sneaking spurts of echoing mall-core vocal chops between its shimmery arpeggios. It's sleek, stylish, and makes for an accessible focal point near the album's bottom half.

Its bountiful crop of synthesized fruit ripe for the picking, Reform is a summertime offering packed with atmospheric refreshment -- suprisingly colorful for a ZOOM LENS release, but also a surprisingly futurist next step for Rostami.