Leila Abdul-Rauf ‎– Insomnia

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[Reviewed by stark]

The front cover image draws attention first. Is it a Canadian wilderness? Cut by a human presence like a scar. It reminds me of Andrey Konchalovski’s “Runaway Train”, though without the train. Then the label – you listen to the first sounds and wonder: ‘What? Malignant released this’? But where’s the power of electronics or the shattering ambient darkness? Then you find out that this intricate female delicacy is very tempting.

Leila is involved in the Ionophore project, which released one of my favourite albums of 2016 (also by Malignant Records). This solo work came out to light several months earlier, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth your attention. When I wrote “ambient darkness” in the previous paragraph, I meant the typical “male” version of the genre. You know, with the industrial, ritual or whatever references. Obviously it doesn’t mean that girls don’t do this kind of stuff as well, but when you listen to “Insomnia”, deep in your heart you can feel that it is made by a woman, as it is so subtle and fragile that you feel if you were to touch it, it would shatter in thousands of tiny sparkling pieces. There are no low-tuned, bass backgrounds which in regular dark ambient are the adhesive material that makes the composition a solid, often unbreakable structure. Yet “Insomnia”, thanks to a vast use of reverb, is based on the echoes of the sounds, often generated by real instruments. On the female voice and silence, which play an equal part with the actual sound.

This is music that refers to individual feelings and emotions, which can be named or not. But there are no specific places, names or symbols. Each listener will find something different, in my case some vague reminiscence from the past, my childhood, perhaps a first love. But you’ll most likely experience it otherwise. Like when you have insomnia and your thoughts start to wander in long unvisited corners of your mind. This is a very interesting album, because even though it has lyrics, the gates of interpretation are opened far wider here than in a lot of purely instrumental albums.

You’ll find some live instruments here as well, not just electronics. There’s piano, guitar and my beloved saxophone. This instrument should definitely be used more often in the post-industrial/ experimental/ underground circles. It adds a languid jazzy touch to “Insomnia”. Like a dream of a romantic noir movie you’ve seen long time ago.

The more I listen to it, the more I realize that “Insomnia” would nicely fit the Denovali Records roster. I can notice some parallels with bands like Birds Of Passage. But it proves the openmindness of Malignant Records bosses and this album surely stands out in their power electronics/ raw industrial/ dark ambient amalgame. Like a shiny sparkling star among tattooed, beardy and sweaty guys (who are also doing some great stuff, so don’t get me wrong). “Insomnia” is charming. “Insomnia” is lovely.

Play it again, Leila.

Leila Abdul-Rauf ‎Insomnia
Malignant Antibody, Treatment05
CD/Digital 2015

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