Review: Naujawanan Baidar ‘Volume 1&2’

Naujawanan Baidar (Farsi for Enlightened Youth) is a project of N.R. Safi of psych outfit The Myrrors. The tracks were created between 2017-2019 and is a joint release from prolific Leeds based label Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube Records. Naujawanan Baidar reportedly takes its cues from the Afghan cassette culture and utilizes traditional folk instruments such as the rubab, armonia, sorna, and tabla. Both volumes were originally released via Radio Khiyaban on cassette and the packaging/artwork paid homage to 1970s Afghan tape design.

Naujawanan Baidar ‘Volume 1&2’

Radio Introduction felt like you were randomly tuning your radio and discovering, by accident, an unfamiliar station in a language you had hitherto never heard. Asir-e Jangi started proceedings with a slice of Middle Eastern psych which had the kind of shamanic quality that reminded me of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s visually striking The Holy Mountain. This segued seamlessly into the trance like Chaikhana Transistor, reminding me of the Killing Joke track Pandemonium from the album of the same name.

Khyber Sound (From Kabul To Peshawar In Fullmoon) opened with squeals of feedback leading to a traditional Afghani riff with a krautrockian motorik beat. If Afghanistan had a krautrock scene then Naujawanan Baidar would have been one of its foremost proponents. Mohjerin continued in a similar vein to Khyber Sound, a memorising riff enveloped by heavily distorted vocals that come and go in a dub style fashion.

Naujawanan Baidar may be removed in terms of sound from the original artists that inspired him, such as Ahmad Zahir,Beltoon, Hamidullah, and Salma Jahani, but there is something touching in the way he pays tribute to them by this ‘reimaging’, as Blood Can’t Clean Blood can attest too.

Aftab Zadagi – Signal Disintegration was the longest track at over nine minutes and the traffic like sounds suggest the streets of Kabul. The production was a little muddier and one could well imagine this sound tracking a short, found film footage of Afghanistan from the 70s, complete with a grainy picture, the kind you’d find on the Pathé News archive that’s over laid with more traditional folk instruments accompanying the heavier drone laden psychedelia.

If Afghanistan had a krautrock scene then Naujawanan Baidar would have been one of its foremost proponents…

The 1:28 minute Midnight Procession followed with an almost free jazz style abandon that reminded me of Midnight Sunrise on the late, great Ornette Coleman’s album Dancing In Your Head. Peshak-e Siyah followed a similar hypnotic trail to the rest of the album, before the short interval Radio Interference gives the listener a quick breather. Zanjeer was a livelier up-tempo piece not as layered in distortion and effects which one could imagine being played at a traditional Afghanistan wedding.

Symmetry Of Knives, one of the longest pieces on the album, had a discordant feel and was one of the most experimental. If you’d been enjoying the by comparison gentle, drone/psych melded with traditional Afghani sounds so far, then this track would take you by surprise.

Shakl-e Barqi – Aftab Zadagi (Slight Return) was a stunning piece with some Joe Satriani style virtuoso playing, albeit without the self-indulgence. Its shredding on traditional instruments! The virtuosity continued with Nagin Saaz but with added percussion/drums. It felt like part two and I was certainly not complaining. Final track Panj Ruz Pesh was like Swans from around 2010 onwards, with all-encompassing layers of noise, quite an impressive track to draw the album to a close with.

The term ‘world music’ may summon a rush of associations, not all of them positive (WOMAD and Paul Simon’s Graceland for instance), but this release demonstrated how important an influence it is on the contemporary psych scene.

Label: Cardinal Fuzz Records | Feeding Tube Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills