Hagop Tchaparian
Credit: Kieran Hebden

As a teenager in the late 90s, Hagop Tchaparian played in a hyped-up London pop-punk band, Symposium, whose dizzying rise and fall left its five members saddled with debt in excess of a quarter million dollars. In the early 2000s, as Tchaparian rebuilt his life, he took gigs flyering outside London nightclubs, and dance music provided a salve. People in the scene embraced him, and some of them employed him—he became a tour manager for Hot Chip and Four Tet, aka Kieran Hebden. In October 2022, Hebden’s label, Text, released Tchaparian’s long-in-the-works solo debut, Bolts. Tchaparian long ago developed a habit of using his phone to make field recordings, and Bolts incorporates audio from his globetrotting over the past 15 years—a noisy taxi in Jordan, a rainforest in New Zealand, a fireworks display at a soccer match in Lebanon. The most moving and pulse-quickening samples are rooted in his Armenian heritage. Some were made in Anjar, a small Lebanese town near the Syrian border where Tchaparian’s father lived as a child before coming to London as a teenager—it’s largely populated by Armenian refugees and their descendants.

On the single “Right to Riot,” Tchaparian builds tension by stacking layers of synths and programmed percussion onto a frenetic drum loop played on the dhol, then dramatically shifts the song’s energy by introducing the nasal wailing of an Armenian double reed called a zurna. Most of the percussion drops out when the zurna comes in, so that the horn opens up the song like a weightlifter in a mosh pit—and Tchaparian maintains the track’s relentless techno drive even when he strips away everything but a wavering ribbon of synthesizer. Tchaparian’s dance music knows few boundaries, and he segues into whatever microgenre suits him, jumping from the borderline ambience of “Jordan” straight to the restless minimal house of “Round.” Listening to Bolts persuades me that Tchaparian couldn’t have finished it any faster—he must’ve needed more than a decade to make sense of his life and all the travels, adventures, reversals, and triumphs that brought him here. And as busy and frenzied as Bolts can get, Tchaparian’s grip on the flow of its rhythms never falters during the journey.

Hagop Tchaparian Junior Boys headline. Thu 3/2, 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, $25, $21 in advance, 18+