The Iranian-born, now US-based, singer, composer and auteur of dazzlingly original music, Sussan Deyhim, came to my attention on a track by the pianist Janis Mattox, embedded in the classic Asphodel compilation, Swarm of Drones in 1995. (The Asphodel drone series, three sets and seven discs, launched, literally, tens of my sonic quests.) The Mattox track stood out because Pauline Oliveros was there, and she’s a touchstone of mine for twenty years. For Deyhim’s part, she’s a soft ripple in the track’s wordless atmosphere. Yet, it led me to a recording she made with Richard Horowitz from seven years before this introduction, Desert Equations – Azax Attra (Made to Measure) and I was transfixed.
Sussan Deyhim & Richard Horowitz – Desert Equations – Azax Attra
If asked to describe Deyhim’s art, and she’s another artist I am moved to hear every last note, I would do her nowhere near enough justice by suggesting she is a middle eastern Meredith Monk. Going deeper, Deyhim, who started as a masterful dancer in Tehran, strikes me as a musician for whom the gestural and kinetics and movement of dance is deeply ingrained in her music. Knowing dancers dance to music, here, the music sounds to the dance.
Sussan Deyhim & Bill Laswell – Meykhaneh
In 2008, having released records infrequently, but having collaborated also with Peter Gabriel, Robert Rich and Bill Laswell, (and others,) she made up for her modest output by releasing five records on her own label, Venus Rising. These included unreleased sessions going back seven years and encompassed her entire range, from austere spiritual chants to beat driven downtempo to startling experimental flights. Deyhim’s flood of music left me hoping for even more.
Her new album, City of Leaves, dials back the experimental mission for the sake of recapitulating her multiple perspectives on her own sound. Still, and as always, her mettle as composer and singer and sonic alchemist is proven again in questing music that is visionary, achingly persona, and intensely modern. Her new record is a great starting point to launch a journey through Deyhim’s boundless artistry.