Experiencing the music of Hagop Tchaparian is, to an extent, like a trip into his family’s past. As a child, his father fled Musa Dagh – an ethnically Armenian region in present-day Turkey – and the British-Armenian musician infuses his music with the regional sounds of his descendants. As a result, he conjures up a unique, bracing meld of electronic and traditional Western Asian instrumentation on his debut album, Bolts.
Tchaparian grew up in London (where he still lives) and played guitar in the pop-punk band Symposium before focusing on tour managing and remixing projects. It wasn’t until he discovered a love for field recordings and sampling that he dove headfirst into what would eventually become Bolts. The album assembles various sounds that reflect his Armenian heritage, combining them with the full-on thump of house beats in a way that doesn’t sound exploitative or gimmicky.
“Timelapse” begins Bolts slowly and deliberately, with the qanun, a traditional stringed instrument, layered over a stuttering beat, followed by a wash of synths that sounds the alarm of what’s to come. It’s a fitting overture before “GL” employs a zurna (a bleating woodwind instrument), ushering in flailing, insistent beats. This is where tradition meets the present, and Tchaparian fuses the two expertly.
But while lightning-fast, thumping beats certainly weave their way through Bolts, Tchaparian also shows restraint, as on the moody, meditative “Escape”, where glitchy samples live comfortably among the laid-back beats. “Raining” is also one of Bolts‘ more languid-paced tracks, and the industrial groan of the synthesizer gives the song a feeling of dread. The same can be said for the sample-heavy “Jordan”, although that track seems to infuse more of a hopeful series of melodies.
In “Right to Riot”, one of Bolts’ more breathless tracks, hyperactive dance beats combine with the traditional samples with such intensity and mirth that you wonder why more artists don’t employ this type of musical fusion. But Tchaparian is also perfectly happy to abandon the dancefloor on occasion to offer up more meditative, Zen-like moments, such as on the closer, “Iceberg”. Samples that suggest a sort of alien chanting are mixed with subtle blips of traditional instrumentation buried under gauzy sonic effects. One could almost picture Tchaparian designing the track as a sort of cool-down segment, allowing the listener to retreat into a deep sense of calm while he prepares for his next series of sonic adventures.