Saint Abdullah, composed of Tehran-born brothers Mohammad and Mehdi, have fine-tuned their vision of conceptual, blown-out dub and free jazz with “In God’s Image,” an ambitious twenty-song double CD on Psychic Liberation. The opus by the two Iranians living in New York, is full of mourning and rage, but these affects only scratch the surface of the work’s emotional and formal heterogeneity.
Like the image gracing its cover—a tiny, dusty peykan, its roof fitted with an image of Ruhollah Khomeini and cone speakers—Saint Abdullah uses DIY minimalism to deliver maximal messaging. On “Problem,” distorted percussion, Shia oration, and a sample of the late Nipsy Hussle meld into a cathartic club burner, while the rhythms and lifted string arpeggiations on “Potion for sorrow” induce hazy cinematics, the duo’s attempt at Persian stoner boom bap.
Elsewhere are instances of improvised jamming, melancholic twinkling, and pensive restraint. The powerfully eclectic statement by Saint Abdullah includes appearances by saxophonist Travis Laplante, who blows a spiralling noir line over feedbacking cacophony. On another track, Moor Mother delivers a poetic lashing on Western imperialists who rain missiles on hospitals, grieves the bodies piling up as capital gets sucked from the Earth.
The sample work on “In God’s Image” draws heavily from Iranian documentaries, and includes the brothers’ field recordings from Tehran and New York. Heretical combinations collide senses of antiquity and contemporaneity, resisting the many orientalist reads on Iranian culture and politics. In this struggle, Saint Abdullah conveys many emotional registers, from exhausted depression to righteous indignation.
Among many things, the image of Khomeini on the cover, which often scandalizes American audiences, represents the overthrow of a 2,500-year-long monarchy. All forms of dehumanization receive the sonic snakebite of Saint Abdullah, and “In God’s Image” resuscitates the revolutionary potential of music that pulls from the traditions of oppressed peoples in both the East and West.
Psychic Liberation, in operation since 2018, is an experimental music label started in Brooklyn, New York, currently based in The Hague, Netherlands. The label is distributed in North America by Fantastique, and in EU/UK by Boomkat.
Mastered by Glyn Maier
Layout by Sara Abruña