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Qobuz's Left-Field Favourites

By Jessica Porter-Langson & Antioco Ruggeri |

We’ve covered our Qobuzissimes for 2021, we’ve covered our ‘Best of 2021’ and now it is time to address some albums that might’ve flown under everyone’s radar and discover something new with our Left-Field Favourites of 2021.

Dal:um - Similar & Different

Where world music and free jazz collide, we are presented with the entirely unique group dal:um. Using traditional Korean instruments, the gayageum (silk string zither) and the geomungo (fretted silk string zither), this group is pushing the boundaries of these otherwise traditional instruments in a modern way to create a truly unique and often otherworldly sound. This album very cleverly interchanges between the spacious free jazz of the opening track, to the striking jazz influence that can be heard on tracks like TAL. Dal:um use their innovation to interpret the instruments in a new way to create harmony and energy, yet to also create silence and space.

Arooj Aftab - Vulture Prince

Arooj Aftab is a young prodigy of Pakistani origin who has lived in Brooklyn since she was 18. This is the second album from this singer-songwriter (and what a singer!). For this album, she had hoped that this release would be filled with light and joy: but a family bereavement got in the way. Her younger brother and a journalist friend both passed away as she was writing this album. The young woman set out to find a connection to life after death and to pay tribute to them. Arooj Aftab draws strength and originality from the blend of her mixed heritage. Her singing voice is inspired by the Indo-Persian traditions of earthly and divine love songs, by the ghazal form, and by Sufi poetry. Musically, she borrows deftly from jazz and mystical electronic music, which provides a perfect foil for her heavenly singing. Track after track, the music's radiance offers comfort and pure, deep euphoria.

FACS - Present Tense

On the darker side of music we have this heaving release by FACS, a group that has always been on the hunt for perfection. The Chicago band born from the ashes of Disappears has released a deep and dark third opus, Present Tense. A massive record that unravels post-punk, noise rock and industrial with admirable perfection. Recorded over the span of 2020 at the Electrical Audio Recording studio by Steve Albini, this third album follows the already excellent predecessors, Negative Houses (2018) and Void Moments (2020). A journey towards perfection wrapped in gloom, marked by a slow and painful pace that is still somehow incredibly satisfying for any rock lover.

Meskrem Mees - Julius

This debut album from Belgian singer-songwriter Meeskrem Mees is for those who are lovers of the likes of Laura Marling and Carla Bruni. Accompanied here by Febe Lazou on the cello, every track is an indie pop/folk dream. As soon as the 22 year old begins to sing on Seasons Shift, we are transported into their world of storytelling, and it is very easy to get lost. Each track is a timeless beauty on its own, with catchy choruses and heartfelt lyrics, these are tunes that will stick with you. The sparse and subtle production by Koen Gisen shines light on the pure gem that is Meeskrem Mees’ faultless songwriting. Definitely an album for the collection and an artist to look out for.

Old Time Relijun - Musicking

After thousands of shows all over the world and 7 albums under their belt, in 2009 Old Time Relijun took a long break to devote themselves to other projects, only to come back one year ago with the excellent EP See Now And Know, a work that marked a change of direction for the band, from their classic abrasive sound based on lo-fi post-modern and visionary blues in the style of Captain Beefheart with some new-wave twists, to a softer use of the groove. Musicking follows the same line traced by the previous EP: 11 songs full of passion and desire to bring their sound to a new level without transcending their personality. The new Old Time Relijun keep all the ingredients of their most successful albums like Witchcraft Rebellion or La Sirena De Pecera, combining them with a less primitive and more organic sound, always driven by the histrionic personality of Arrington De Dionyso.

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