“Beginning credits, like a film, sun comes up,” opens Sadaf Nava, in a monotone vocal in a song called ‘OK, I WROTE A FILM,’ describing a non-existent script in detail to the lethargic score of dissonant, layered noise. “Walking down the street. Close up. Up the stairs. Wide-shot.” The track opens the Iranian born, New York-based producer’s debut EP, SHELL, released under her SADAF mononym via Los Angeles-based label Outside Insight on August 13.
The new media artist, performer and multi-instrumentalist brings her unbridled live approach to creative production on the record, where its themes and lyrics emerge organically through improvisation. Discordant analogue and digital sonic crushes beat and swallow Nava’s creepy-calm chants, in ‘LET IT BURN’: “Am I suffocating you? ‘Cause you’re suffocating me.” A lilting iteration of her voice, pitched and distorted into indecipherability, haunts the story of a ‘bad man’ in ‘WALK ON WATER.’ It’s a visceral approach that sees the violinist’s classical training collide with the almost violent self-expression of dissonance and atonality, a no wave ethos of destruction applied to layered spoken word in a style that’s not dissimilar to, but still distinct from the effects-laden poetry of experimental artist Marine Stern.
Following a recent East Coast tour with DIY performers Odwalla 1221 in September, Nava took the time to answer some questions about the ideological position of the ‘outsider’ in art and interdisciplinarity as radical praxis.
**The concept of the EP follows a failed script that you then recreate musically, is it based on an actual script that exists?
Sadaf Nava: It does not exist. If the script existed, there would be no point in making this project. If there was a script, there would be no need for an album about a script. It’s more about transposing these two mediums onto each other and about the failure inherent in trying to do that. It comes from dissatisfaction with the limits of only using sonic methods, and wanting to give narrative and dimension within the structure of an album. In that way it is really not about the script at all, and the existence of the script becomes totally irrelevant in that sense.
**Does your multi-disciplinary practice partly influence this conceptual ‘script,’ like disrupting or complicating a mode or format by realising it in a different way?
SN: Exactly. I think it definitely does. I enjoy doing things within the wrong context. It’s the context that I wish to disturb.
**You mentioned in an interview that you reject this idea of disciplines. This is something that interests me a lot, that the refusal of a label in the contemporary state of the ‘professionalised artist’ is a refusal of the artist’s commodification, thus being a truly anarchic gesture, would you agree with this?
SN: Of course I agree with this, but that being said, I did not mean that an artist should refuse commodification or professionalism. It would be naïve to want to preserve oneself in that way. What I was trying to say was that I don’t want to be pigeonholed or labeled as an expert of any field, and that I would like to stay free to express myself within many disciplines.
**There is also this idea of ‘newness’ in art being dead, or irrelevant, that the creative impulse now resides in the remix of ideas, information or presentation (formats). Is this also something you could relate to? I ask this on account of your improvisational work, across violin, vocals and visual art, as well as your eclectic influences.
SN: This is a big question, the ‘newness of art.’ Of course we are always recycling ideas, but it is impossible to directly copy anything, as the context in which those ideas are presented are constantly changing. And I think that a new combination of ideas, a remix of ideas still very much has the potential to present something exciting or disruptive.
**Given your background and experience across cultures, this refusal of being ‘what you do’ but ‘who you are’ feels like something a cultural outsider would understand. As someone brought up outside of the United States, for example, do you think you have a greater perspective on noticing these differences?
SN: I think at this point we all have an ability to relate to what is not familiar to us. Being an outsider is not contingent on cultural difference, although within minority communities it is definitely felt or experienced more. A refusal of being defined by ‘what you do’ is an ideological stance; it is a question of politics and ethos. For me, it is how someone chooses to live their life; I think anyone can relate to that.**
SADAF’s SHELL EP was released via Los Angeles label Outside Insight on August 18, 2017.