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Nadah El Shazly — Les Damnés Ne Pleurent Pas (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(Bandcamp Asadun Alay Records AAR3, 2024, LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2024-05-27

Les Damnés Ne Pleurent Pas (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Cover art

When this intriguing album showed up, I’d never heard of the film for which it is the soundtrack. I still don’t know much about it, but I do know that the music is exceptional and works on its own. Nadah El Shazly is an Egyptian musician who splits her time between Cairo and Canada, and her collaborators on the soundtrack are all based in Canada. El Shazly composed and arranged the music as well as performing the vocal parts; Sarah Pagé plays harp and electronics; Jonah Fortune plays double bass; and Nicolas Royer-Artuso plays violin. As befits the small ensemble, the music is often quite sparse and atmospheric, and many sections include only one or two of the four at a time. El Shazly’s voice is beautiful and evocative — I presume she’s singing in Arabic, and her melodies are full of the elaborate inflections found in Arabic music. Pagé’s harp provides delicate backing, and sometimes seems to be tuned in something other than equal temperament. The electronic touches are subtle but provide an important edge of modernity and unpredictability. The bowed bass supplies mournful melodies and deep resonance along with microtonal expressions that echo those of the vocals. Royer-Aruso’s violin is right at home with these modalities and also injects keening echoes and non-melodic noises. The ensemble is not treated in a conventional way for the arrangements — there are no times when the harp provides chords, the bass hits the roots, and the violin plays a melody (though “End Credit” comes close). It’s all much more impressionistic, based on the timbres of the sounds. This album is definitely something you have to be in the mood for (at least that’s how it is for me), but in the right setting it really hits the spot. Swing over to the Bandcamp page, and also check out El Shazly’s earlier album, Ahwar from 2017. It’s the maximalism to this album’s minimalism, with a large ensemble that features both Pagé and Fortune.

Filed under: New releases, 2024 releases

Related artist(s): Sarah Pagé, Nadah El Shazly

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