With their first album, Beyond Denial, Axiom of Choice offers up a revision of Persian classical music more accessible to ears attuned to Western pop, folk and soundtrack music. Along with standard Persian instruments like the tar and tombak (and the Kurdish daf), the group features synthesized bass and two Western acoustic guitars, one rigged with extra frets so that it can play the quartertones of Persian scales.
The centerpiece of the album is "Desert Storm," a 13-minute song expressing the anguish of the Gulf War. Mamak Khadem sings her wordless ululations over much of the track, and Shahram Hashemi's tar offers an anxious and angry solo, both backed by the locomotive sounds of Pejman Hadadi's daf. It's a powerful piece, rather reminiscent of Hossein Alizadeh's Song of Compassion, but the power is spread out, and one must be patient for its arrival. While a few other pieces are somewhat interesting ("Whisper" actually sounds like Dead Can Dance), most of the tracks are unfortunately just exercises for the quartertone guitarist or the vocalist -- Persian jam sessions, as it were. The group has a hold on a powerful concept; let's hope they can develop it further.