Despite only being five songs in total, Parjam Parsi’s album, Decomposition comes in nearly an hour in length. Looking over his discography though, it’s no surprise to see a small number of songs with a colossal runtime.
Despite everything, Parjam Parsi’s music could also be seen as a meditative experience, a thought experiment, or something else entirely. It pushes the boundaries of what could be classed as an album in some ways. The songs are far more than just that, they’re mood pieces without lyrics. Everything is delivered in a neo-classical style, sounding much more like a symphony than any modern day music.
Without getting too much into the music theory behind Decomposition, the songs themselves on this album are all inspired by the mood and feeling behind different stages of a body decomposing.
Stage One: Fresh is the first song, and it has a gentle violin piece leading the song throughout. Hitting incredibly high notes and meandering gently in a seemingly meaningless, but altogether still controlled fashion. Backed by other strings and synthesiser notes that gently ring out. It’s a lullaby of a song and is incredibly relaxing to listen to on its own.
Stage Two: Bloat, immediately has a much more deep tone, both literally in the synth delivery, and figuratively. Whilst Fresh is a lullaby, Bloat is a much more deep and moody song. There’s still the string orchestral arrangements, mixed with modern synthesiser, and added effects, a common theme across Decomposition as a whole.
With the longest runtime out of all the ten-minute-plus songs, Stage Three: Active Decay, is a behemoth of a song. It continues the downward spiral started in Bloat, moving into more downbeat and darker moods. There’s much more drastic arrangements in the music itself, morphing and changing sounds much quicker than what was started on Fresh. The addition of more haunting notes in the background adds an air of even more tragedy than Bloat. There’s breaks in the front running string instruments at times, taking a breather in some ways.
Stage Four: Advanced Decay, moves out of the realm of sadness and into the realm of outright discomfort. There are intentionally uncomfortable notes pushed into place with Advanced Decay, ones that unnerve the listener and seem to encourage a discomfort in the listener. The notes move to a harsher and more chilling feel. It’s not the most pleasant of listens when compared to the surprisingly pleasant harmony of Fresh and Bloat. Thematically and technically, Advanced Decay is clearly made to push the narrative of bodily decay after death. The composer completely nails that idea, in particular in advanced decay, purely because of the raw emotion that is drawn out by the music. It’s uncomfortable and harsh and it fits perfectly.
Stage Five: Skeletonized rounds out the album nicely. It moves back to the more gentle tones of Fresh, moving away from the uncanny and unnatural, back into the lullaby territory. The idea of the uncanny valley is that the more human something looks, there will be a point where most people will suddenly become disgusted. The idea is that a dead body falls into this area of disgust, due to it looking like a person, but ultimately lacking life and therefore causing great discomfort to most. With something that doesn’t look human anymore also moving back away and into something that isn’t so unsettling. The idea of Skeletonized moving back into the realms of something more gentle and soothing fits this comparison well.
As the title suggests, the metaphorical dead body now no long resembles a human, and therefore does not illicit a disturbed reaction. But it does cause a sense of sadness due to its representation of death. It’s arguably the most interesting track on the album, especially when compared so deeply with the other tracks. Fresh is something that is still all around comfortable and gentle, with the three centre tracks slowly spiralling into great discomfort, and Skeletonized rounding things out with a gentle yet truly tragic feel.
It’s quite breathtaking how Parjam Parsi, along with collaborators, Dark Clove Ensemble, and Jonathan Gasparian really sell the mood to each song without saying a word. With just simple adjustments over each tracks tone, composition and tempo.
As a whole, Decomposition is a technical and musical marvel, but also an oddity. Its neo-classic style is a rare sight in a modern music landscape, and the sheer length of each individual song could be seen as an initially monumental task to just listen to. But as far as music that causes the listeners mood to change and feelings to be brought out, it truly does hit the spot.
It’s not an easy listen purely due to the monumental size and more macabre subject matter. It may sound very much like the same thing throughout, and could be thrown away as such. But when listened to with a clear mind and the idea that it’s a story, it can be both a think piece, as well as a gentle album to fall asleep to.