Golfam Khayam/Mona Matbou Riahi: Narrante (ECM 2475)



Golfam Khayam guitar
Mona Matbou Riahi clarinet
Recorded July 2015, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher and Ramin Sadighi
Release date: May 20, 2016

With Narrante, Iranian musicians Golfam Khayam (guitar) and Mona Matbou Riahi (clarinet) make their ECM debut. The Naqsh Duo, as they’re also known, became known to producer Manfred Eicher through earlier tapes before he invited them to record at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI with Stefano Amerio engineering. Thus welcomed into a pristine studio under the auspices of this hallowed label, the Naqsh Duo offer a program of nine originals.

Although a liner note describes the album as “a unified piece that traverses different stages and variations of a dialogue, each related to a formal structure with open sections for improvisation,” one may point to self-contained highlights therein. Of those, the concluding “Lamento-Furioso” shows the duo at its freest, raw and rich with ideas. As in “Battaglia” a handful of tracks before, Khayam and Riahi elicit an artfully controlled restlessness. Labored breathing in the latter lends relevance as commentary on today’s geopolitical malaise. “Lacrimae” is another standout, not only for its evocative trembling but also because beneath it is an acknowledgment of life, as if having the ability to grieve were confirmation of perseverance. In this sense, the music rightly claims that emotions are never uniformly made, but born of many disparate strands.

Narrante Duo
(Photo credit: Hessam Samavatian)

Such openness percolates through “Testamento,” in which Riahi purifies the space for Khayam’s guitar. Like a pair of hands opening a window outward onto a wave-caressed shore, it conveys a message of solitude—one that, despite emerging from the interactions of a duo, represents parts of the same psyche. That same two-in-one feeling is magnified in “Arioso,” throughout which trills in both instruments float and sink simultaneously, leaving a melodic body suspended between them. Other moods range from dreamlike (“Sospiro”) to reflective (“Silenzio”), but always with an ear attuned to the larger picture at hand.

The title track is the most intimate of all, making effective use of spaces between notes. This is, in fact, what the duo does best: mold resonance as substance into sculptures of resistance. Like the colors of “Parlando,” it shapes wind and time into a cherished memory, as this program is certain to become once it finds a home in your heart.

2 thoughts on “Golfam Khayam/Mona Matbou Riahi: Narrante (ECM 2475)

  1. Thank you for reviewing this, Tyran. Narrante is a recording of fragile beauty balanced by a haunting intensity and subtle insistence. I look forward to more from these musicians.

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