Album Reviews

Jerusalem In My Heart: Qalaq – “a recurring, abstract dream”

The Montréal collective are back with their most though-provoking release yet.

 “Situated between the cracks of a broken tomorrow, I worry / That the idea of family is changing / From communal sound chambers to unhoused echoes / Claiming a space which cannot not be / A barrel full of particles pulling each other deeper into the void of isolation, I worry.”

Moor Mother has enjoyed a sterling 2021, recently releasing her latest solo album, Black Encyclopaedia of the Air, as well as featuring on The Bug’s explosive dystopian tour-de-force, Fire. Here, however, her morbid appraisal underpins the foundations on Jerusalem In My Heart’s Qalaq.

At its core, Jerusalem In My Heart is Lebanese-Canadian musician/ producer, Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, and Edmonton born, Montréal-based filmmaker, Erin Weisgerber.

Moumneh is also one of the main driving forces behind Constellation Records and the Montréal music scene in general, working out of the Hotel2Tango studio he co-owns with members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, producing albums from Fly Pan Am, Ought, Sarah Davachi, and Jessica Moss. In 2015, Moumneh also collaborated with fellow Montréal collective, Suuns, releasing their eponymous debut LP.

Written last winter during lockdown, Qalaq is like a recurring, abstract dream where the vivid moments outweigh the half-forgotten ones, but it’s the latter in which most spend a lifetime trying to evoke.

Billed as a sister album to 2018’s Daqa’iq Tudaiq, an album recorded in Beirut with a 15-person orchestra, the title Qalaq is an Arabic word – very much like Moor Mother’s above-noted musings – that portrays various meanings.

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In this case, coupled with the complex soundscapes that are dotted all the way through Qalaq, it exposes the chaos of Moumneh’s native Lebanon. As Moumneh stated in the press release of Qalaq, he defines the terms as “deep worry”.

He went onto to say second part of the album is, “representing the degrees of layered and complex violence that Lebanon and the Levant have reached in the last couple of years, from the complete and utter failure of the Lebanese sectarian state that has driven the economy to a grinding halt, to its disastrous handling of the migrant influx from neighbouring failed states, to the endemic corruption that led to the August 2020 port explosion, to the latest chapter of Palestinian erasure and yet another brutally asymmetrical and disproportionate bombing campaign on Gaza.”

Jerusalem In My Heart - Qalaq

With a plethora of guests, Qalaq starts off with Greg Fox’s warrior-on-amphetamines-like percussion during Abyad Barraq. A song filled with splintered fragments of Arabic-inspired soundscapes, Fox’s fine work continues on from the fantastic Body Meπa’s The Work is Slow, which dropped earlier this year.

Sa’at and Tanto features the spoken word of Alexei Perry Cox and Lucrecia Dalt, respectively; their voices barely rise above the crumbling collages of sound that feature heavily throughout Qalaq.

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While the Middle Eastern rhythms of Istashraqtaq and ‘Ana Lisan Wahad, each featuring Farida Amadou and Pierre-Guy Blanchard, excavate deeper into the ideas of psychedelia, it’s the second part of Qalaq, titled 1 through 9, where the finest moments can be heard, with each composition seamlessly rolling into the next, forming a subtle cadence.

Again, it’s that abstract dream, but with the second part of Qalaq, it’s almost like the final effects of an acid trip. Aesthetically, it echoes the likes Allen Moore’s Lived a deviL, but where the Chicago multi-disciplinary artist garners inspiration from local concerns, Jerusalem In My Heart travels across the globe to cultivate foreign soils.

The electro-acoustic scramble of Qalaq 2 and 4, with Fly Pan Am’s Roger Tellier Craig and Rabin Beaini, respectively; the aforementioned dread poetry of Moor Mother Qalaq 3; the flickering cutting-room floor noise of Qalaq 5 with Oiseau-Tempête; the atmospheric opera-in-the-sky of Qalaq 6 with Réka Csiszér; and the buckling drone of Qalaq 7 with Tim Hecker.

Sonically, Qalaq is all over the place, or in Moumneh’s words, a “dismantled orchestra”. Whichever way one looks at it, Qalaq’s unevenness illuminates reality. A world where money, greed, and violence overshadows everything else. A world that makes no sense at all, and because of this why should art?

Moumneh captures the chaos to tape like no other. Where many artists dare to explore, Moumneh has gone all in, and the results speak for themselves.

Qalaq is out now via Constellation Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

4 replies on “Jerusalem In My Heart: Qalaq – “a recurring, abstract dream””

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