When was the last time you heard something that really surprised you? A question in a similar fashion was brought up by a like minded music lover in an email conversation a while back. I had to agree a good point was being made; it's not very often I come by music which strike me as unique and utterly takes me by surprise. The last album which did is Jerusalem In My Heart's cryptically titled "Mo7it Al-Mo7it".
Montreal-based Radwan Ghazi Moumneh is the man behind this contemporary Arabic and electronic music project which was formed eight years ago. Since two years ago JIMH has been a trio consisting of musician and producer Jérémie Regnier and visual artist Malena Szlam Salazar. Together their three different backgrounds are as diverse as Lebanese, French and Chilean! During their live shows they use film projections to visually enhance the music, and it's being said that the concerts have never repeated themselves - neither music-wise or visually wise. I can imagine this strict artsy performance approach is very likely to be the main reason why it took so long before the project evolved into a debut album.
"Mo7it Al-Mo7it" often includes Moumneh's characteristic use of Arabic singing styles - and to me it's a thematically built album and very much like a man's wanderings through a city. This day is transformed into sound which are divided into seven deeply emotional chapters. The opening song is an epic song of the man standing right before a religious wall singing out his prayers during the early sunrise. After his dramatic morning prayer he continues to find his favorite park to reflect upon recent happenings. Improvised acoustic guitar playing is combined with birds singing gently for over nine minutes. This cominbation is like shivering water; so calm and meditative, and yet so abiding and restless - in many ways similar to the ancient-like music of Anouar Brahem.
He gets distracted by a fraction of a thought. A soon-to-arise-problem is lurking in his mind. He leaves the comforting park and wanders out into the streets, which are getting more and more crowded as the sunrise is turning into bright, blinding daylight. Psychedelic ambient is combined with whispering and dark Arabic singing; the voice inside his head is troubling him and the faces of the crowd has never seemed as unfamiliar or as hostile.
He has to get away from this morning chaos, so he goes to find his room. It's a simple room with a wooden bed, table, chair and a small window. A glass of water and some pieces of bread lies on the table. This is when he starts to whimper out loud. And this is where I'm going to stop this fantasy tale, because I just have to say; I haven't heard as much sorrow and despair packed into one song as in the fourth '3anzah Jarbanah'. Try to imagine all the fear you have ever felt through your entire life. At the same time. This song is exactly how that would sound like.
The album continues in a similar fashion, but in the sixth and seventh track we get to the climax where all the tension and the unsettling back-and-forth between darkness and brightness finally comes out. JIMH's music is mentally exhausting, but ultimately rewarding when listened to under the right conditions.