After the album closes, we can only wonder at Meryem Aboulouafa’s voice on her eponymous debut. We are held in a 38-minute hypnosis during which the Casablanca singer’s dreamlike organ takes control of our souls and senses, we embark on a hybrid voyage mixing soul, pop, electro, oriental music and faux film music.
But like her contemporaries Kadhja Bonet (who often comes to mind), Weyes Blood, Jenny Hval and Lana Del Rey, Meryem Aboulouafa’s universe is also made up of sounds, ambiances and, above all, words…
Her father raised her on all the classics (Beatles, Stones, Floyd, Dylan, Piaf, Brel, Brassens), before she went on to study music theory and violin at the Conservatoire, write her first poems in Arabic and French, and study interior design at Casablanca’s École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts.
Guitar in hand, a young Meryem would write her first songs drawing the attention of Manu Barron from the label Animal 63 (The Blaze, Myth Syzer, Johan Papaconstantino, Gabriel Auguste). With the help of Keren Ann she perfects her already solid first drafts which are intelligently assembled by production experts Para One and Okard.
"Para One brought a cinematographic element to the recording which suits me well as I visualise a lot of my music and lyrics”, explains the singer. “Ojard is more about melodies, orchestration and the elaboration of complex harmonies and sounds.”
A stripped-down piano here and lyrical neo-classical strings there. Continue on for warlike rhythms and a blend of electronic trip-hop. Throughout, instrumentals take care to follow the voice and introspective lyrics.
The Friend evokes a muslim prayer and its poetic gestures, Deeply discusses the complexity of the human soul, Breath of Roma is a love letter to Italian culture, and so on and so forth. Eleven pieces make up this fascinating puzzle from beginning to end with great emotional finesse. We should narrowly avoid branding Meryem Aboulouafa the hidden love child of James Blake and Oum Kalsoum as this debut album (a Qobuzissime winner!) is the work of an artist of great personality.
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