Jerusalem in My Heart - If He Dies, If If If If If If - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jerusalem in My Heart - If He Dies, If If If If If If

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2015-09-09

Jerusalem in My Heart is the brainchild of Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, a Lebanese national based in Montreal, Canada. He's been part of that scene for decades, and has been working on this project since 2005. If He Dies, If If If If If If, the project's second full-length, is extremely vocal-centric at times, with some tracks lacking almost any instrumentation whatsoever, and Moumneh wailing his way through the pieces, adding subtle audio manipulations to his voice as he goes. Other songs are purely instrumental. The result is quite unlike most of what Western audiences are used to: an authentic Arabian album that breaks boundries.

The passion of vocal songs like 'Al Affaq, Lau Mat, Lau Lau Lau Lau Lau Lau', the album's lead, is both transcendent and meditative. You can feel the hot sands all around you and the bleary sun blazing down from above. '7ebr El 3oyoun' has much the same effect, but comes across as more soothing, especially towards the end, where it becomes more of a chant.

The non-acapella songs are also numinous, but with a different flavor. 'A Granular Buzuk' is just that: a long sequence of explorations with the Arabian stringed instrument, eventually broken into bits by trembling electronics and exotic percussion. One of the most bizarre tracks is 'Qala Li Kafa Kafa Kafa Kafa Kafa Kafa', where a wall of staticky noise overwhelms the instrumentation and slowly dissolves away as the more traditional instruments assert themselves, before the chaos resurges towards the back half of the song. It's tough to compare this to anything else out there. Then there's the deep and introspective 'Lau Ridyou Bil Hijaz', with quiet bass, simple beats, and a gentle, muted vocal performance from Moumneh. The song also feels cooler, in the physical, temperature sense, than what's come before. You're relaxing in the lotus position in a cave by candlelight, not baking in the noonday sun.

'Ta3mani; Ta3meitu' creates a more spacious, echoey sensation, like walking through a desert canyon, and is perhaps the most balanced between voice and buzuk, with neither dominating, but rather cooperating and creating something bigger that either manages alone. 'Ah Ya Mal El Sham' tones down the vocals significantly. They're still there, but they're not as strained and intense. There's a sweetness instead. And they're accompanied by guest flutist Dave Gossage, whose playing is remarkably grounding rather than fanciful. The final song, '2asmar Sa7ar', is rather upbeat, with plenty of staccato buzuk notes propelling it along, and the continuous ocean wave samples give it a refreshing, cleansing feeling after the long hot trek it completes.

This album probably isn't for everyone, at least not people accustomed to the traditional genres like rock, pop, and hip hop. But for the brave, there is much to enjoy, even cherish, about the songs here. It's like being on a pilgrimage: those with adventurous ears will be rewarded, in this life and perhaps the next.

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