• Azar Swan

Dance Before the War

Handmade Birds
HB-079 - 2013


Formerly the core members of orchestral goth project Religious To Damn, Zohra Atash and Joshua Strawn turn their once instrumental ensemble into a sprawling electro-encased duo whose narrative is framed by noise and driven by drum machine. Industrial Pop: Two parts hard percussion and shimmering ambience, and one part majestic yet pointed vocals, the shift was sparked by a two-fold realization from Atash and Strawn who were looking to consolidate the writing process by eliminating the unnecessary weight that comes with coordinating multiple musicians, combined with a mutual revived interest in electronic music and hip-hop beats.

The themes of the songs place the honest expression of struggle as tantamount to life experience. Many of the tracks delve into Atash's Afghan-American immigrant family and her often conflicted childhood. Atash says of "Amrika": "We had moved from a cozy enough house in South Carolina, to a one bedroom apartment just outside of DC. Nine people - uncles and Grammy included - in a one bedroom. Why the abrupt move? I don't know, you'd have to ask my father, but I hear it has something to do with exposing us to other cultures. Maybe my thick little southern accent and my best friend Nikki with the blond mullet was a little too much culture shock for my Afghan parents.This smells of kimchi and curry, attacking each other in the hallways, the millions of cockroaches that would come out of the pipes and walls the second you turned the lights off, the racial slurs exchanged right outside your doorway... This was just another day in Amrika, as far as we knew. It was better than being home."

The self-recorded "Dance Before the War" puts emphasis on different rhythms and percussion to give the overarching juxtaposition of mixed cultures and a myriad of influences. In a twist of poetic irony, much of the collection was tracked on the 33rd floor of a Tribeca apartment building facing site of Ground Zero / Freedom Tower, a strange tilt to the recording process with so much emphasis on the American fabric and immigrant life.



  • 1 Lusty
  • 2 Amrika
  • 3 Dance Before the War
  • 4 Shiksa
  • 5 White Violet
  • 6 The Knife and The Wolf
  • 7 In My Mouth
  • 8 Over
  • 9 No
  • 10 Lovely Day
  • 11 Grey