Private Playlist: Maral shares music that creates its own unique world

Maral. Photo courtesy of Maral

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments. 

Maral (Maral Mahmoudi) creates dense, distorted, and wildly textured club music with a darkly psychedelic edge. Drawing extensively on the field recordings and folk music of her Iranian heritage, Maral creates mirrored-reality music that recalls experimental artists like Sussan Deyhim and the depth-charge dub of Lee “Scratch” Perry. Maral’s debut cassette, 2019’s “Mahur Club,” served as a statement of intent for the hybrid music she calls “folk club.” Her new album, “Push,” features Perry, as well as Penny Rimbaud, co-founder of the legendary anarchist punk collective, Crass. Maral also hosts the show “Time Away” on dublab.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Maral spins her greatest influences, ranging from Iranian classical vocal music to Nico’s rock-oriented solo work.


Like everyone else, this year has been a challenge, good and bad. Getting to work from home has opened up a lot of new possibilities. I got to move closer to the mountains in Los Angeles, which has given me a chance to have some solitude and time to reflect on how we exist in the world. I think so much of life is just go-go-go to the next thing, trying to get your goals done. So I've been spending time reflecting on my impact on the world, and how I can do better.

For my last record, I was sampling a lot of folk music and field recordings. I was really into that raw sound, and not into exploring the classical side of Iranian music as much as I had been in the past. For this record, I found a compilation called "A Century of Avaz." It goes through a bunch of masters of Iranian vocal singing, which is a type of classical singing. It's kind of trill-like, kind of like yodeling in a way. I go back to this album a lot, because it's just so beautiful, these masters of song, and some of them I had no idea about. So I was learning more about Iranian classical music that I didn't know. Compilations do such a great job of exposing you to new music. You're drawn to it because you find something familiar, but then there's a whole other realm of music you can discover through them.

I helped curate this protest compilation, "Sound the Alarm Vol. 1 - Louder Feelings." We asked each artist to submit a song that reflected their experience in the past four years, or as many years as America has existed. I'd like to feature an artist from Philadelphia named Pedazo de Carne con Ojo. He's an artist I'm pretty obsessed with right now, and I think what he does is unique and impactful. 


I've been thinking a lot about Nico's "Drama of Exile" album. Any time fall comes around, I'm always stuck in a Nico phase. She's someone who has impacted me greatly. I love her journey from [being] forced into the Velvet Underground and then deciding that she's going to go out and do her own thing. And I think "Drama of Exile" is a great example of her taking control, because she wanted to make a rock album, and she didn't want to be stuck in the soft realm that her other albums were in.

Recently I've been into the song "60/40," because of the version on the "Nico in Tokyo" album. I just love the way the band jams out on that track. It seems like the band is so into it, and everyone's locked in in this really beautiful way. And the way Nico sings it is so raw. I truly feel Nico in that track.


Panda Bear and Animal Collective are probably the most influential band for me. They taught me that you can sample music in a very different way than what I had grown up with, which was hip-hop or electronic music. Especially Panda Bear's "Person Pitch," which he basically created out of samples. His recent EP, "A Day with the Homies," is interesting. The way it's mixed, you feel like the vocals are lost in this interesting way. And you're like, "Is my record player not playing this right?" It's amazing to hear Panda Bear do such a raw piece of work when his stuff is more polished a lot of the time. The instrumentation has this really great dub feeling to it. And I think this EP really had an impact on how I wanted my new album to feel.


Andrew Siegel is a local artist who put out a really amazing album this year, "Reston Town Center Blues." We're both from Virginia, so it's an homage to that suburban area that we grew up in. But Andrew's lyrics are so poetic, and he creates this very haunting world to live in. It kinda reminds me of Nico, and the vibe that she had. Andrew recorded this album with one of my favorite producers, Andrew Sarlo. They worked together to reinvent Andrew's songs into this whole new and cohesive world. It's one of those fall albums that you can get lost in while walking and listening on your headphones.


Thoom are Lebanese, and they incorporate Middle Eastern elements into their music as well as noisy elements. And I really felt drawn to that. Their production techniques are insane and unique on their own. I really liked that, with this new album, they took it to a whole new realm beyond their heritage and just created this noisy rock album. Making music as a Middle Eastern person, you get kind of pigeonholed into making music about your heritage, which is something I do openly. That's kind of what I want to be doing. But I can see that sometimes you don't want to be pigeonholed into something like that. And I think with this record, they made their own unique sound, and I thought that was really cool.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

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Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
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Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
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