Irani producer/DJ, Sepehr Alimagham (aka Sepehr), was easily one of my favorite Bay-Area electronic acts for the brief five years I spent there, and recently I was thrilled to hear that the San Francisco native had launched his own label, Shaytoon Records. With a focus on broadcasting the sounds of the Iranian/Middle Eastern underground, Sepehr announced his latest EP, Crown Jewel, would be premiering as the first release on the label, following up his previously released works Body Mechanics and his debut album, Shaytoon, on legendary West Coast label, Dark Entries. 

Sepehr and I go way back, and by “way back” I mean the last time I caught them spinning was during a crazy halloween night set at intimate San Franciscan underground electronic venue ‘Underground’ (the name fits, I promise) a couple years back. Granted, I was tripping my a** off on mushrooms, which slightly impacted my enjoyment of the night. When Sepehr took the decks, however, it was as if the room itself got just a bit darker, with his infectious bounce and intensive focus resulting in many of the night’s highlights.

‘Cloak Of Flames’ introduces Crown Jewel on a slightly understated note, establishing the labyrinthine, dub-delay soaked percussion, and growling synthesisers that make numerous appearances throughout the record. This deceivingly slow intro only lasts until the thumping kick drums come in, giving the tune an ominous, driving energy that invites further dives into the EP.

The title track, ‘Crown Jewel’, comes up second, upping the ominous atmosphere through an off-kilter arpeggio and gritty acid bassline bringing a surge of intensity. Sepehr’s sporadic vocals remain a constant throughout much of the album, grounding it with a firm sense of personality and a ‘just walked out of the rave’ kind of haze that permeates the entire project, and a subtle sci-fi motif that weaves images of a bleak dystopian future.

Energetic flow also reveals itself as a key element of Crown Jewel, and Sepehr brings us through peaks and valleys across the length of the project, with each building towards a cathartic closing (which we’ll get to soon). For example, ’Head To The Sky’ shifts things into slightly more melancholic territory through atmospheric, synth-string sections, right before the breakbeat comes crashing into the mix with a blown-out rattle that channels the mechanical energy of Detroit’s electro greats.

Of all the tunes on Crown Jewel, the closing duo of ‘Night is Young’ and ‘Riposte’ brought by far my favourite moments, through shuffling hi-hats and a stank-face inducing acid riff that seems perfect for those ‘zone-out’ kind of dancefloor moments where the whole club seems entranced and fully enveloped in the music.

On this latest EP, Sepehr sets an excellent first impression and high bar for Shaytoon Records, and the album has already riled up an enormous amount of anticipation for future releases. Crown Jewel is now available in both digital formats and on vinyl, courtesy of essential SF record store RS94109.

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