"Ok, I wrote a film/ And now I want to burn it," says Sadaf in a confessional tone on the opening track of her debut EP, SHELL, which, as she explains below, is named for the English translation of her Farsi name. It's a tactile body of work, one that finds the New York artist whirling through unpredictable soundscapes that, by turn, crackle, shatter, vibrate, and caress. Each track provides a clue to the record's loose narrative about the internal life of a young filmmaker, but Sadaf's sonics privilege sensation over legibility; it's a puzzle that will not be cracked.
Due out this Friday on Outside Insight, you can listen to the record in full here, alongside a brief interview with Sadaf in which she tells the story behind the cinematic theme of SHELL, explains why she doesn't see it as music, and digs into the real power of fiction.
SHELL is your debut EP. What did you want to explore in this first major artistic statement?
The album deals with identity formation/destruction through fiction. In many ways it is about the creative process and the anxiety producing affect of being defined by what we put out creatively. It is also very much about a rejection of reality as a vehicle of truth. In the same way that Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe says,“What is excluded never fails to return,” I wanted to explore the idea that maybe fiction has a higher potential to communicate personal truths than a purely autobiographical work does.
In terms of the title, it is not only a literal definition of my name in Farsi (Sadaf means "shell"), but also refers to this blank identity; the frame or skeleton that can support what is projected on or into it; the idea of a blank script.
Did the narrative of the filmmaker shape the record from the beginning, or was it something that arose over time?
The narrative of the filmmaker is woven with my own personal narrative of the time and a need to escape that narrative. As usual, nothing was really planned; I tend to gravitate towards things without really knowing why. I’ve always wanted to make a film and I don’t have the means for that, so that desire was transposed onto music. The sounds used in the production eat away at each other and have the hisses and cracks of a fire. To me this isn’t even music, it's more a series of images and moods described through sound and rhythm, but of course we can also see pop tropes and structures coming back once in a while.
How does your live performance practice feed into your recorded work?
They are very different, but come from the same intention. They both start with improvisation, but recording later turns more into a drawing that is worked on and colored in, and of course it is a much more isolating experience since I work alone. Performing is definitely more cathartic, violent, physical, immediate, and social in its context. It’s hard to translate what happens live into a recording, so it becomes something else in the process.