Yasmine Hamdan is a Lebanese singer, songwriter and actress born in Beirut in 1976 and is seen as an innovator in the Arab world, incorporating electronic music and singing in Arabic. She has previously made three albums with Lebanese electronic duo Soap Kills. She has also worked with Madonna collaborator Mirwais making the album Arabology in 2009.
This album incorporates that’s wonderful Arabic intonation – melodies that Westerners don’t have. Whatever it is she’s singing about her voice draws you into an atmospheric downtown Beirut. The opener Deny acoustic and groove deep drum and great melody. It’s also the way she incorporates acoustic guitars and keyboards into her music as she does on second track Shouei. Layered vocals take over from the single voice and bell sounds into keyboard flutes – it’s so evocative. Then comes the drum machine on Samar. Enta Fen Again, looks back at an earlier Soap Kills album title (Enta Fen) from 2005 – bells and keys and heavy bass. La Mouch and Nediya follows with something of a Massive Attack sound on the latter. But then the sensuous song, Beirut is next – see the video on the In Deep site.
Aleb has that crossover organic and electronic mix with piano and pulsating keyboards, turning into sequencer. Throughout the record you here that Arabic guttural accent coming out of the tracks. That sound itself is enough to hold your attention even if you don’t understand the words.
Bala Tantanat is back with acoustic guitar and close vocal, you can hear her mouth! It’s an odd track with a live sounding vocal melody in its chorus.
In Kan Fouadi is an alien pulse and string sounds with trumpet sounds and you expect something like a classical melody but she arrives with a long complex Arabic tune that makes you wonder how she can hit so many notes in a scale and not one of them sounds like a Western record. It’s actually beautiful. A strange almost industrial chorus but quieter.
Hal – captivating moody Arabic splendour, like Wish You Were Here without guitars and making all the focus on the melody of her voice over the drone…and then the drums come in. Odd rhythms and vocal effect.
Khaayam has Robin Guthrie sounding guitar, an Arabic Cocteau Twins.
Finishing with the title track Ya Nass, interesting changes and vocal tones and harmonies and keyboard atmospheres.
This is something different, something unusual and I love these kinds of melodies especially when set against this modern atmospheric backing. It makes you realise how Dead Can Dance are Australians who like Arabic Music and that is ok, but the difference is in the blood.