Tigran: Shadow Theater

On this, his fifth album, Armenian-born pianist, keyboardist and sometime singer Tigran Hamasyan is inspired by traditional Armenian shadow theater, exploring the power of ambiguity and the multiplicity of meaning found in the art form. Principally through-composed, this album continues Tigran’s exploration of Armenian folk music, synthesizing metal, prog and electronic music into a unique, compelling sound that is decidedly of the present.

Juggling piano, synth, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, harpsichord, celesta and glockenspiel, this 26-year-old experimenter is joined by Nate Wood on drums and Ben Wendel on saxophones and bassoon (both of Kneebody), Armenian folklorist Areni Agbabian on vocals and bassists Sam Minaie and Chris Tordini, as well as string players and electronic percussionists. The album features several reconfigured traditional Armenian folk songs as well as Tigran’s originals, forming a diverse and dynamic soundscape-from soft, fluid and graceful themes to driving, pulsating, rattling moments, often within the same tune (for example, “Erishta”). On “Drip,” a traditional Armenian song is infused with a hip-hop beat and Agbabian’s ethereal vocals; on “Pt 2 Alternative Universe,” pulsating, lightning-quick piano and vocal lines intertwine.

Influenced by artists as diverse as Madlib, Meshuggah, Sigur Rós and Steve Reich, Tigran creates an unpredictable and highly original brand of fusion.