Album review: “Ensenity” — Emel Mathlouthi

Emel Mathlouthi (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2018
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Album review: “Ensenity” — Emel Mathlouthi

Emel Mathlouthi has long endured, and enjoyed, comparisons to Björk, and the daring, dazzling Tunisian singer-songwriter’s latest release will do little to plug the current. “Ensenity” is a collection of “reworkings” based on her acclaimed second album, 2017’s “Ensen” — a tasty, guest-produced coda arriving little more than a year after the main event.

There is a distinctly Björk-ish feel to this turn: It was the Icelandic icon who popularized the remix album more than 20 years ago with “Telegram” — a collection of guest remixes of Björk’s own second album, “Post” — and she has proceeded to release alternative and/or live versions of all but two of her eight “proper” albums to date. But “Ensenity” is pointedly a collection of “reworkings” – not “remixes” — presumably to highlight that many of these fresh takes tout newly recorded, or perhaps deleted, instrumental layers, rather than strictly electronic trickery.

Built around beats, vamps and dirges, but perennially stained with searing vocal laments soaring above the audio storm, the stark, primal music of “Ensen” is genetically suited to the endeavor. Reworked by Cubenx, the tribal drive of “Ensen Dhaif” is stripped down and spaced out, Mathlouthi’s processed cries emerging from a misty fog somewhere in the distance.

Most often, the strategy is to magnify an existing element of a track, elevating the micro to macro. The trip-hop influences already evident in “Sallem,” for example, are further massaged by the live drums driving Free the Robots’ groovier, moodier take. The jagged, unnervingly relentless riffing of “Thamlaton,” however, is disappointedly diluted by Karim Attoumane’s overwrought, spooky sci-fi effects and misplaced barrage of emo guitar.

Oddly the more introspective material fares best: In Ash Koosha’s hands, the mellow invocation of “Kaddesh” is sped up, imbued with disorientating subterranean warbles and glitches, while the reflective electro-simmer of “Layem” takes shades of mature, minimal R&B, courtesy of Muudra, without sacrificing an atom of the emotional urgency which defines Mathlouthi’s singular songwriting.


History goes under the hammer as London celebrates Islamic art

Updated 27 April 2018
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History goes under the hammer as London celebrates Islamic art

  • Leading auction houses this week embarked on an 1,800-year artistic odyssey with treasures from across the region
  • A painting by the late Egyptian painter Mahmoud Said fetched the highest bid £633,000

LONDON: For aficionados of Middle Eastern art, London was the place to be this week. During the biannual Islamic Art Week, the big auction houses held sales of everything from antiquities to modern-art installations, with many works receiving well above their estimates.

Sotheby’s 20th Century Art/Middle East on Tuesday featured two Saudi artists, Ahmed Mater and Maha Malluh, alongside works by  Morocco’s Farid Belkahia, Lebanon’s Paul Guiragossian, Iraq’s Shakir Hassan Al-Said and Syria’s Louai Kayali. A painting by the late Egyptian painter Mahmoud Said, often a record-setter at auctions of Arab art, fetched the highest bid: “Adam and Eve,” at £633,000 (it was estimated at £300,00-£500,000). 

The same day, Sotheby’s held the seventh season of its Orientalist Sale, with Edwin Lord Weeks’ painting “Rabat (The Red Gate)” drawing the highest bid at £573,000, above its estimate of £200,000-£300,000.

At Bonham’s, a pair of gold pendant earrings from the collection of Maharani Jindan Kaur, the mother of the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab, sold for £175,000, eight times the original estimate. 

At Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World auction on Wednesday, an Iznik pottery flask raised the highest price, £669,000, well above the estimated £60,000-£80,000.

The Christie’s auction on Thursday featured Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, including Oriental rugs and carpets. A rare palimpsest of a Qur’an written over an earlier Coptic text, thought to be from Egypt and to date back to the second century, was bought for £596,750.