Ibrahim Maalouf – Diagnostic (2011)

Some years ago, my country’s mainstream music had been overtaken by a new wave of performers, drawing from an oriental musical tradition. These sonorities have since been associated not only with a more-or-less stereotypical idea of middle-eastern culture, but rather with a particular type of very base, very aggressive subculture in Romania. It was a great disservice to the source material. The other day, I have stumbled upon music which catalyzes freedom in this respect.

Source: parismatch.com

Ibrahim Maalouf’s music is difficult to approach. If ever I was faced with sounds which make me think of alchemy, these are them, because there is no area he will not cross, there is no reference he will not make, there are no limits on his staggering root system – from hip-hop to post-rock, from jazz to metal, this album moves through all of these as if they were water. But this is not music to be dissected in terms of influence. This is music which will simply not allow itself a minute to rest, it has some of the most urgent, most dynamic structures I’ve ever heard.

The album is a push, a struggle, not without humor and detachment, but of unrelenting intensity and creative drive, forging together all of its elements into an alloy of unique and highly peculiar properties. When left alone, it resonates. When struck, it releases torrents of energy which it then amplifies over and over, emitting heat and light and sizzling, only to swallow it all up again and instantly cool down. It’s jazz, reforged, notes welded on metal sheet music. It smells of acetylene and cardamom, it tastes like licking a nine volt battery, with a hint of pistachio.

Ibrahim Maalouf’s trumpet is always accompanied by a subtle percussive whisper, that fine, human little sound the brass makes right before the air stream makes it vibrate properly. As much as the notes themselves, that whisper is what makes me feel that this is so much more than his instrument. Truth be told, I’ve always had a fear – I almost want to call it a prejudice right now – that the trumpet has very little subtlety. My impression started being eroded when I heard Nils Petter Molvaer for the first time, but it has been completely shattered by Ibrahim Maalouf. The level of expression and the range he can give this instrument is simply remarkable. This is his voice, and he speaks well.

I really hope you enjoy these samples… Diagnostic is an album quite capable of leaving me speechless. I’m surprised I’ve been able to write as much. Enjoy.

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