Jerusalem In My Heart: Qalaq (Constellation)

Immersive, challenging and ultimately rewarding, the fourth album from the genre spanning project

Released Oct 8th, 2021 via Constellation / By Norman Miller
Jerusalem In My Heart: Qalaq (Constellation) Meet the bold sound of 21st century avant-garde Arab-Levantine electro-acoustic music in the fourth album from the boundary-pushing project led by musician and producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (Suuns, Matana Roberts, Big Brave).

Following on from 2018's Daqa’iq Tudaiq and 2015's If He Dies, If If If If If If, the present album fuses spoken and sung Arabic (with an occasional dash of English), electronics and the jangling strings of buzuk. The title refers to an Arabic word carrying the connotation of 'deep worry', pointing to how the music channels the particular current anguish of Lebanon/Beirut into 13 tracks shot through with often harsh emotional clout alongside sonic invention.

Almost all the album's tracks feature diverse collaborators, most famously perhaps Tim Hecker on Qalaq 7 (ironically, one of the weakest tracks). But it's Greg Fox who helps set the broad sonic palette in the opening Abyad Barraq – a distorted mash of frenetic drums and jagged electronics through which, eventually, a calming balm of vocal melody sweeps.

As tracks flow into each other, it's best to let yourself be swept along on an aural helter skelter, where skittering Arab strings on Istashraqtaq merge seamlessly into the stately beauty of Tanto, featuring a slow interplay of drifting vocals by Lucretia Dalt over slow elertronic pulses.

There's a similar calming mood in faded hypnotic groove of Qalaq 1 (with Alanis Obomsawin & Diana Combo), while Réka Csiszér from VIZ provides weary female vocals over broken electronics to good effect on Qalaq 6.

Breathless guitar and thudding drums star in the Arab thrash of Ana Lisan Wahad (featuring Farida Amadou & Pierre-Guy Blanchard), while jangly Arab strings speed through a mash of voices on the outstanding Qalaq 4 (with Rabih Beaini). Qalaq 5 (with Oiseau-Tempête) is another standout, blending angular electronics with slow drifting bass lines.

Challenging listening at times, but also often thrilling and hugely distinctive. 4/5