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.


Lefaucheux revolver ‘Van Gogh killed himself with’ up for auction

Updated 17 June 2019
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Lefaucheux revolver ‘Van Gogh killed himself with’ up for auction

  • Van Gogh experts believe that he shot himself with the gun near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise north of Paris
  • The seven-millimeter Lefaucheux revolver is expected to fetch up to $67,000

PARIS: The revolver with which Vincent van Gogh is believed to have shot himself is to go under the hammer Wednesday at a Paris auction house.
Billed as “the most famous weapon in the history of art,” the seven mm Lefaucheux revolver is expected to fetch up to $67,000 (€60,000).
Van Gogh experts believe that he shot himself with the revolver near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise north of Paris, where he spent the last few months of his life in 1890.
Discovered by a farmer in 1965 in the same field where the troubled Dutch painter is thought to have fatally wounded himself, the gun has already been exhibited at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
While Art Auction, who are selling the gun, say there is no way of being absolutely certain that it is the fatal weapon, tests showed it had been in the ground for 75 years, which would fit.
The Dutch artist had borrowed the gun from the owner of the inn in the village where he was staying.
He died 36 hours later after staggering wounded back to the auberge in the dark.
It was not his first dramatic act of self-harm. Two years earlier in 1888, he cut off his ear before offering it to a woman in a brothel in Arles in the south of France.
While most art historians agree that Van Gogh killed himself, that assumption has been questioned in recent years, with some researchers claiming that the fatal shot may have been fired accidentally by two local boys playing with the weapon in the field.
That theory won fresh support from a new biopic of the artist starring Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate.”
Its director, the renowned American painter Julian Schnabel, said that Van Gogh had painted 75 canvasses in his 80 days at Auvers-sur-Oise and was unlikely to be suicidal.
The legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere — who co-wrote the script with Schnabel — insisted that there “is absolutely no proof he killed himself.
“Do I believe that Van Gogh killed himself? Absolutely not!” he declared when the film was premiered at the Venice film festival last September.
He said Van Gogh painted some of his best work in his final days, including his “Portrait of Dr. Gachet,” the local doctor who later tried to save his life.
It set a world record when it sold for $82.5 million in 1990.
The bullet Dr. Gachet extracted from Van Gogh’s chest was the same caliber as the one used by the Lefaucheux revolver.
“Van Gogh was working constantly. Every day he made a new work. He was not at all sad,” Carriere argued.
In the film the gun goes off after the two young boys, who were brothers, got into a struggle with the bohemian stranger.
Auction Art said that the farmer who found the gun in 1965 gave it to the owners of the inn at Auvers-sur-Oise, whose family are now selling it.
“Technical tests on the weapon have shown the weapon was used and indicate that it stayed in the ground for a period that would coincide with 1890,” it said.
“All these clues give credence to the theory that this is the weapon used in the suicide.”
That did not exclude, the auction house added, that the gun could also have been hidden or abandoned by the two young brothers in the field.
The auction comes as crowds are flocking to an immersive Van Gogh exhibition in the French capital which allows “the audience to enter his landscapes” through projections on the gallery’s walls, ceilings and floors.
“Van Gogh, Starry Night” runs at the Atelier des Lumieres in the east of the city until December.