Ash Koosha: I AKA I

Ash Koosha's latest album is ambitious, creative, and overall an exciting showcase of his musical skills.

Ashkan Kooshanejad, who operates under the alias Ash Koosha, hasn’t exactly had the easiest introduction into the music industry. The electronic artist who hails from Iran found his start bombarded by the obstacles of strict censorship laws. Koosha has served time in jail for playing an unsanctioned concert, and from there the government only became stricter. Following the arrest (and beating) of a fellow band member and the suit of espionage thrown onto a filmmaker Koosha had worked with, he had no choice but to seek asylum while in Manchester.

Though life might have been easier on Koosha had he adhered to musical restrictions in place, he also notes that his music would be much less creative, labeling the restricted art as “an imitation” of music in his DAZED interview. While Koosha has been unable to return to Iran for the past seven years, he is now free to use as much creativity as he can conjure up, and he doesn’t let this opportunity go to waste. Ash Koosha’s latest offering, I AKA I is partly inspired by his ability to group sound with colors. The trait, called synesthesia, is a somewhat rare condition where experiencing sensory input in one sense will trigger a reaction in another simultaneously. For non-synesthetes, the concept might be difficult to grasp. However, Koosha is intent on letting listeners partake in the phenomenon themselves.

Since he’s able to effectively “see” sound, he plays around with the shape of the music, as if it’s a physical form that can be “broken down, liquefied, rescaled or spatially positioned”. These are the tools Koosha uses to express the album’s focus on “transformations in psychology and technological advancements”. It might sound like a lot to fit into one album, but according to Koosha, it all leads back to the same thing: humanity.

Koosha’s vision is a lofty one for sure, even in a genre full of ambitious artists looking to get big messages across their mostly wordless platform. Luckily for the casual listener, the album exists on a plane outside of the academia of theoretical physics. Listeners don’t need to know what Koosha had planned to get something out of the album. Of course, his ideas might take hold of listeners without them being cognizant of it, but essentially their connection to I AKA I will be dependent on the strength of the music.

Much of I AKA I is colored by its careful usage of instrumentation. Opener “Ote” starts off with beats that are harsh, glitchy, and overall threatening. The cinematic melody however sounds wearied and full of desperation. The two seem to function in a cause and effect relationship. It’s a great example of I AKA I‘s excellent emotional range, and the complex feelings he can capture as he webs these pieces together. Tracks like “Ooh Uhh” on the other hand show off his attempt to alter sound, as the melody line seems to lose its mass entirely and starts ascending right before our eyes. It’s intriguing, but above that, it’s a gorgeous display of sound. Album highlight “Mudafossil” goes one step further, conjuring up an entire world that’s threatening yet fragile, digitalized but alive, and ultimately prehistoric yet modern.

Koosha has incorporated a lot into his display of music, but it’s especially successful in terms of versatility. This isn’t just a statement on the wide range of sounds he engineers or the emotions he captures. The album as a whole is just as elastic as its pieces are. It’s great for a casual listen, exciting, complex, yet something you can play while directing your attention elsewhere. But if you’re looking for something more in the music and are willing to dig a little deeper, there’ll always be something new to surprise you within Koosha’s intricate, little world.

RATING 8 / 10