Porya Hatami – Arrivals and Departures

8 Production
7 Composition
8 Mood
7 Instrumentation

Last September saw the release of what is already Porya Hatami’s fourth studio album this year. With its title and the incredible – yet already sold out – “Pilot’s Logbook”-packaging, Hatami leaves us no doubt what subject the album entices. Consisting of five pieces of music, all clocking in at around ten minutes, this album might seem daunting to many, certainly in combination with the oft misunderstood genre of ambient. However, the listener is easily carried away into the world of Porya Hatami and in comparison with his previous album “The Garden”, “Arrivals and Departures” is more busy, which means it’s more accessible in a way.

RELEASE DATE: 28 September 2014 LABEL: Time Released Sound

The album opener, curiously titled “Farewell”, surrounds me with warm feelings and intense impressions of being above the clouds, with the sun shining and free as an astronaut in outer space. While at the same time I feel like I’m in a terminal on the airport; a lot of people around me, people who are busy, people who are exciting to go somewhere, and I’m there too; I have the same goal as everyone else, to travel and to fly away. “Farewell” is a wonderful song to listen to.

I talked about the album being easy to listen to, but that doesn’t mean that this album doesn’t blow your mind at times. I love the pulsating synthesizers that lead the way into “Terminal” – they’re really on the brink of what your ears would deem comfortable. Next song “Homecoming”, with its water clattering and birds chattering, reminisces the “Garden” album, yet in the course of the song, the sonic palette broadens to include strings and early electronica synth leads. Still, the dominant instrument on “Arrivals and Departures” is definitely the piano, which is a welcome distraction. With this many-stringed instrument, Hatami leads the listener through spacious worlds of exuberance and light, and with mixed results. The airy notes are very nice as a background melody to doze off to, but actually listening to what’s being played I’m very doubtful about the actual added value of what’s being played. “Terminal” has some lines that are spot on, while at other times, the lot just seems like pointless dabbling – beautifully sounding, but not very meaningful.

This album makes me question my attraction to Porya Hatami; isn’t his Iranian origin, in combination with the genre of ambient and field recording, some gimmick? Truth be told, “The Garden” and his latest single “Daydreamer” are terrific works of genius texture and ambiance, but “Arrivals and Departures” is clearly made from different material. Hatami is known for being a field-recording artist and I appreciate the way he incorporates the recordings of real life sounds in his music, but the radio fragments used in “Landing” are quite a shocker. It’s more a manifestation of bad taste than of inadequacy, but I know Hatami is to be very capable in marrying field recording to ambient music, and it is the same song – with its cricketing sounds and jet engine whooshes – that again reinforces that thought.

“Arrivals and Departures” is an album that easily captures your imagination, and it’s definitely an album I would suggest to people who are not acquainted with the genre. It’s an ambitious work, both in size and in theme, and it clearly displays Porya Hatami as the artist that he is. The album contains everything that is typical for him, yet I feel like what he does well here, he normally does in splendour. In other words; it’s good, but it’s not his best.

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