Album: In Decadence and Disarray by Parjam Parsi

Meredith Gasparian

Stark, Surprising, impassioned, and honest. Parjam Parsi might truly be one of a kind.

 In Decadence and Disarray is a musically rich adventure into the artist’s notions, as well as into his mind. Parjam Parsi is an Armenian pianist and producer who managed to achieve total and absolute radio silence. This album is sixteen years old, and after decades of evading publicity and social and streaming services, he’s finally given in and decided to give us this gorgeous gem of instrumental piano work from a sadly obscure part of the world. The only bit of information that Parjam Parsi provides is that this album has a story, which concerns his mother, her world, and her relationship with him. With no further details given, and no text other than titles to the pieces, we’re left free to connect any dots our minds may create.

 This album goes through two distinct styles. The first one is that of motif-based pieces. Those which have a particular motif, or riff, which repeats on top of a dynamic layer of left-hand chords that heave and swell or choose to remain stagnant whenever a song dictates. The second one is much more freeform; fueled by the emotive, fluid, right-hand lines that characterize compositions from the Romantic Era. Parjam Parsi approaches both styles with daft nimbleness. Unaccompanied, the pieces see him alone in the soft, radiant limelight in which he resides and is totally in his element.

 From the highlights is One October Day. A stunning starter, it goes under the first of the styles we discussed. The motif is a mildly syncopated line, long, goes under multiple chords, and is packed with natural dissonance that keeps the ears hooked throughout. In the Cross of Your Arm has a playful melodic line set on a base of melancholic chords and gracefully jubilant rhythms. Curious, yet dark. The Water and The Blood are very classically inspired. Dreamy and airy, the motif is sparse with a lot of space to give the phrases breathing space. The chords are bright and introduce a ray of hope after the last song’s tragic tones. The Entwined Bodies fall under the second stylistic category. The first one to do so, it was pleasantly surprising to experience Parjam Parsi as an emotive and expressive player, having readily proven himself as a steady-handed performer. The high-reaching lines are the first instance of the multiple Chopin-recalling instances that are about to happen. A gentle layer of airy pads gives the whole piece a very mid-air kind of vibe. Together with the ever-moving, unsettled, and fluently played lines, this piece sent me flying.

 May Wear My Silence is a tragic, minimal palette cleanser. Simple, approachable, and easy to grasp. The titular piece is another melancholic and cyclic offering that’s hypnotic. Dazzling syncopation, taken care of by the left-hand department, gives the short and sad motif a far more foreboding shape halfway through the runtime of the piece. Butterfly Tears is most decidedly inspired by the stylistic musings of Romantic Era composers. A vividly expressive piece of gorgeous piano that takes many guises, as it navigates the waters of dark and light, striving to achieve a balance between both, and succeeding. The closing number, titled All Souls, delicately wraps things up as it drapes the gentle harmonic progression with warm and emotive melodic playing. A fitting closer.

 Parjam Parsi is an artist in the truest sense of the word. He composes, and when he’s not doing so, he’s indulging in stunning visual art. I suggest you check his Instagram, where there are glimpses of the kind of art he does. It’s beautiful. What’s even more beautiful, to me, is the fact that this story/album has been finished in 2006. In my mind, it has sat somewhere in the artist’s personal collections, with no release intentions. Maybe copies have been given to a few friends and family members, and maybe some art connoisseurs around the country. In my mind, Parjam Parsi made this to honor his mother, in life or death, with no plans for gains. It was made for her alone, and by him alone. And to me, that’s far more substantial than any number of streams or lucrative gains. It’s highbrow art, for everybody.