wed 08/07/2020

CD: Nadah El Shazly - Ahwar | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Nadah El Shazly - Ahwar

CD: Nadah El Shazly - Ahwar

A beautiful debut that’s straight out of Cairo

Ahwar: unfolds and glides with a rare beauty

Nadah El Shazly may have started her musical journey by singing Misfits covers in Cairo’s underground scene, but her debut album offers something altogether more tasty and esoteric – as those who saw her at this summer’s Supersonic Festival will already know. Coming on like an Arabic Björk, Nadah serves up abstract grooves and laid-back rhythms that weld together the ancient and the modern, the Eastern and the Western. Ahwar brings classical Egyptian sounds, jazzy atmospheres and loop-fueled electronica production with abstract time signatures. It’s a beautiful and unexpected treat that has no interest in following the usual Western rock template, but envelopes the listener in a warm North African ambience.

Opening track “Afqid Adh-Dharkira (I lose memory)” has mangled and warped vocals and a bowed double bass drone twisting through an eerie soundscape. A guitar twangs, horns bust forth and fade away, while drum fills randomly punctuate its woozy atmosphere, but Ahwar is no free-form art piece. “Barzakh (Limen)” and “Palmyra” lay down a slow and deliberate shuffle with Nadah’s sung-spoken vocals floating around a groove that is understated and warm but also strange and otherworldly.

El Shazly’s cover of Sayyid Darwish’s “Ana ‘Ishiqt (Once I loved)” is a gently bowed drone with occasional atonal jazzy squawks. In fact, her haunting and sultry vocals need no translation, as they tell of love and betrayal over strangely captivating sounds. It’s a widescreen trip that offers all kinds of unexpected paths and fades into “Koala”, with its stoned gait and a strange, off-kilter melody of horns and brass. Almost Philip Glass-like, it builds and bubbles away, before winding down with the sparse and atmospheric desert lament of “Mahmiya (Protectorate)”.

Ahwar is a slow-burning sonic jewel that is esoteric but also revelatory as it unfolds and glides with some rare beauty.

Ahwar is a slow-burning sonic jewel

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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