Emel is a Tunisian artist that has become well known for her uplifting and positive attitudes towards women in her music, and her second album Ensen is no different. This album is a carefully crafted combination of electronica with Tunisian textured music that has been constructed in a cinematic universe. Available on Vinyl LP and CD.
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This record is going to take you apart a bit. A record of non-stop rock intensity from Tunisian songwriter Emel Mathlouthi, it is loud and ferocious and full of cliff-end faceoffs. Listening to the record’s sorta title track, “Ensen Dhaif”, killed me a bit: a looping guitar line sorted out by a burst of distortion and disgruntling sound effects worthy of Pharmakon in the background, it’s carried with a subliminally throbbing beat and the kind of live-or-die energy of a Jon Mueller record. Chilling with eight tracks to go.
The most telling of Mathlouthi’s inspirations is Ben Frost, as this record matches its songful structures with pulsating electronic production that makes me worry for a tear in the space-time continuum. “Kaddesh” places ripples of discontent through its backdrop with a horror-filled synthline before breaking the waves apart with a massive but obscured beat. It’s one of those classic cases where an artist stokes fear with only its implications, her performance lively but not yet at its peak. “Kaddesh” never strikes into some huge, defining moment, but rather builds ever so slowly on its mission statement.
There’s plenty here that suggests Malhlouthi as a phenomenal producing mind: warped electronics, creeping basslines and a flatlining trap beat push “Lost” in and out of contexts, while she grows a song out of the swirling, disengaged ambiences of “Princess Melancholy” without making the listener do any legwork. It’s a massive and (if I may use this word once in my Norman tenure, then it’s here) haunting record that rides by on an eerie effortlessness.
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- Ensen by Emel
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