Hagop Tchaparian is a rising British-Armenian electronic music producer, who’s music career started in earnest back in the 90s: As a teenager, Tchaparian played guitar in post-grunge, punk outfit Symposium, an act that had a few years of some international success. They were big enough to play the States on Warped Tour. They played Reading Festival‘s main stage and opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica. Then they became disenchanted with the music business, and split up debt-ridden.
After Symposium, Tchaparian contributed to a 2000 compilation Hokis, which featured music by Armenian artists — but he mostly got drawn into London’s club scene, where he quickly became friends with Hot Chip and later a tour manager for both Hot Chip and Four Tet (a.k.a. Kieran Hebden).
“After wanting out of guitar bands and with a massive interest in all things dance music, my first job (mainly due to being broke) was flyering outside many of London’s clubs,” Tchaparian recalls. “I would stand outside all of the main clubs starting at around midnight in East London, ending up outside the Ministry Of Sound around 9am. I would hear the sounds from outside and see the people coming out and really wished I was inside! I began to get inside finally and was checking out as much of it as I could and by a huge stroke of luck, ended up helping out people like Hot Chip and Four Tet on tour. I got to travel and observe them and many others at festivals, clubs and shows creating these special unforgettable moments.”
He would make the occasional remix that friends like Four Tet would play in their DJ sets, but working on new, original music wasn’t foremost on his mind. However, during that time, he kept gathering little snippets of rudimentarily recorded sounds. There was a deep emotional resonance in continuing to fit these samples together into a storyline that made sense of him. On their own, the rhythm tracks could successfully power an underground dance floor, but the elements surrounding the beats were the undercurrents that he felt helped push the music beyond party rituals.
When he played some early bits and pieces for Hebden, the acclaimed producer, musician and DJ encouraged Tchaparian to continue, and turn it into a full body of work if he could. “I love synthesizers and music gear but there are some sounds that I hear around me as I go about my life that make me sit up and really pay attention,” the rising British-Armenian producer says in press notes. “I try to capture as much of them as I can and have used them as the main building blocks of the album. I need music to mean something to me otherwise I’m not as interested. It’s a bit like younger days where I would just gravitate to certain inspiration like oxygen – I just really need it.”
Tchaparian’s full-length debut Bolts is slated for an October 21, 2022 release through Kieran Hebden’s Text Records. Bolts will feature ten songs of hyper-personal rhythm-driven music that mixes techno with field recordings of his travels through Armenian and Mediterranean culture. Essentially, the album combines the audio evidence of a life’s experience with the notion that lo-fi techno can be the appropriate canvas for conveying that experience.
He has been gathering sounds and vignettes for the better part of 15 years, having begun accumulating before smartphones included a record function. The British-Armenian producer would isolate sounds from videos that his friends sent him, like an Armenian wedding clip that showed members of the party jumping over a fire while a drummer played in the background. He would stop street musicians and ask them if he could record their playing, like the women playing the qanun, a harp-like Arabic string instrument; or he would record with professional musicians, who would play instruments like the zurna.
Tchaparian also listed places that were important to his family, like Anjar, Lebanon, where his father’s family took refuge after being driven out of the Armenian-Turkish town of Musa Dagh in 1939. He documented himself following the almost exact footsteps his father took.
The end result is an album that can be described as a man chasing and following his heritage around the world — while sprinkling bits of his everyday life among the manipulated folk instruments of his ancestry. So the album’s material has a deep, emotional power to it.
Bolts‘ third and latest single “Round” is woozy, yet contemplative deep house banger centered around skittering beats, tweeter and woofer rumbling low end, glistening layers of reverb-drenched and pitchy synths, paired with subtle bursts of electronic bleeps and bloops and manipulated instrumentation paired with Tchaparian’s unerring knack for hooks and swooning nostalgia.
The album’s bangers offer an almost secondary, magnetic purpose. “Come for the beats,” they imply, “but stay for the emotional content.” With this in mind, great though these beats are, they’re not easy — Hagops’s globalized narrative complicates this party’s soundtrack beyond the margins of ethno-cultural chill-out comps. The beauty and the storytelling here are beyond obvious genre or form: ‘Bolts is a very particular and this is Hagop’s excavation of his Armenian heritage through a lifetime’s worth of remote recordings.