Bedouine - Bedouine

by Jason Atkinson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-06-23

Bedouine, AKA Azniv Kokejian, has released a gentle-on-my-mind country-and-western album with Los Angeles twists and turns. She was born in Aleppo, Syria but also lived in Saudia Arabia and Houston. Dial in various other North American cities that are probably listed on the internet as up-and-coming and you have a person who calls herself Bedouine. 

Bedouine has the look of a person who might have been the queen of a vast desert empire in a nation-state that lived and died thousands of years ago. Instead it is 2017 and she is making music videos that have a Lawrence Welk zing of post-irony.

I'm cool with that. 

Her work background is interesting. She studied sound design and has done quite a bit of work in Southern California in the arena of dialogue editing. A quick IMDB search reveals that she has dialogue edited for shows like “Preachers’ Daughters” and “Ultimate Soldier Challenge.” And herein lies the pain of the creative artist: one doesn’t move all the way to LA to content oneself with this sort of employ. Indeed, there is more to life than normalising audio clips on a TV episode called “Operation New Jersey” (from the show “Jersey Belle," btw).

And so the songs are written. Possibly born out of a bad break up, who knows. Kokejian presents them well: she has the relaxed in the pocket vocal comfort of an Astrud Gilberto. She also has the occasional rock solid echoes of Aimee Mann and Joni Mitchell. She has the stoic beauty of a young Fairuz. 

The tracks (or the vocals, at least) were recorded to analogue tape—or at least one of them was, who knows. I can tell you this—tape was involved in the recording of this album. Country guitar deity Smokey Hormel (Tom Waits, Adele, Beck guitarist) plays on the album. The album was recorded in LA but then shipped off to Richmond, Virginia to receive the much vaunted “Spacebomb treatment” via the much vaunted (he, too, is vaunted) Matthew E. White, current tastemaker of the known universe. There are string arrangements here (courtesy of Trey Pollard) to be reckoned with, which means French horns and low brass in addition to the usual violin and viola da gamba or whatever. Of course, I measure all string arrangements against Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now." These come close. 

The first song, “Nice and Quiet” starts things off gently. Bedouine sings about how she will keep her [insert some thing] nice and quiet for you [the beloved]. “One of These Days,” the strongest track on the album, reminds me a bit of Ronee Blakely in the Altman film Nashville singing “Dues.” “Dusty Eyes,” is another solid track with Hormel-esque guitars. “Solitary Daughter” has the spoken word sound that reminds me of Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said,” but maybe that’s just because the song is called “Solitary Daughter.” Or maybe it does sound like Neil Diamond. That’s a call that you have to make on your own, listener.  

At a moment when albums typically slow down, we continue with “Summer Cold” with delicious Hormel guitar, unusual backup vocals, and an interesting soundscape at the conclusion of the song. Oh, and some French horns. Bedouine’s self-titled debut continues on with similar consistency, I liken to sweet condensed milk when skim is expected. 

To sum up, this is a good album. Great set of songs and you are pretty much going to fall in love with the voice here, which sounds like it was recorded through a layer of honey. I suggest you run, don’t walk, to your phone across the room and type her name in and listen you lazy bum.

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