Monday, June 26, 2017

Spotlight: Origin by Elise Lebec

Having possessed a seemingly inexplicable fascination with ancient Egypt since childhood, I was particularly excited to receive Origin: One World Turning Project, Vol. 1 by Elise Lebec. With two piano-based recordings to her credit, including 2014’s Heart Song (one of my favorite albums of that year), this gifted pianist and composer ventures into markedly different and mesmerizingly exotic territory on her latest effort. Comprised of nine compositions inspired by ancient Egypt and the middle-east, Origin fuses traditional Arabic music with modern electronica and other western elements, which are often complimented by Lebec’s own ethereally haunting vocals. Joining her on this magnificent adventure are nearly forty guest artists, of which include Abu Zaed, Charlie Bisharat, Mai Mostafa, Mahmoud Marv Ellis, Sheikh Mahmoud El Tohamy and Turon Davis.

“Taaly Maaya” opens the album in a somewhat foreboding mode, eventually unfolding into a mysteriously powerful arrangement of Arabic instrumentation and tribal percussion blended with distinctive electronica. Providing a majestically beautiful introduction, Lebec soon delivers an ethereally soulful melody evocative of an ancient rite or ceremony that seemingly casts a veil of enchantment upon the listener’s senses. Equally spellbinding, “Queen of Light” ensues with more English-sung lyrics silkily woven into a world groove arrangement accentuated by classical strings, which effectively evoke a cinematic quality of viewing an old film portraying a sojourn across the Sahara. The vivaciously seductive “Cairo Morning” bears distinctive elements of Raï music, as it weaves wordless ethereal vocals around that of a man’s rapping in Arabic. Seemingly slipping back into the scene of an old film where the site of the sphinx and pyramids come into view, “Bolero" is a stunningly beautiful composition and easily my favorite herein, in which Lebec delivers a sultrily sung melody amidst Arabic male vocals echoing in the distance. The equally enthralling “Rumi Song” (named for a 13th-century Persian-born Sufi mystic) features Cairo-based singer Mai whose voice one might easily mistake for that of Natacha Atlas. A powerful blend of lushly layered electronica and Arabic instrumentation, the piece seemingly transports the listener back in time where ancient temple ruins and monuments become fully restored to their glorious beauty and reverence. Named for an ancient Egyptian solar deity, “Sekhmet: The Goddess Awakens” bursts forth with thundering tribal percussion and a spoken chorus of women in poetic mantra that increasingly builds with intensity. Exuding a distinctive pagan flavor, the piece elicits imagery of the women dancing in celebration around a Saharan desert campfire. Another favorite, “The Jam: Luxor, Egypt”, is comparatively more traditional, albeit with deftly interwoven electronic textures and occasional injections of English-sung vocals which work to utter perfection. Taking another slight detour is the positively feel-good “Sufi Dance”, in which funk/soul elements, wah-wah effects and psychedelic organ are joined by English rap lyrics backed by gospel-style singing. Concluding the album is “Hob Elahy: God is Within”, which begins with a tantalizing Arabic male-vocal chant; Lebec’s equally mesmerizing lyrical melody ensues, guided by a driving rhythm that conveys an image of riding off into a desert sunset.

A masterfully crafted effort from an unquestionably versatile composer, Origin takes the listener on an unforgettable experience of sacred magic and soulful mystique that seemingly reawakens a long-forgotten era in the distant past. A top-notch world fusion album sure to appeal to many fans of the genre, Origin is also particularly fitting music for modern, fusion and tribal belly dance! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available at Amazon and iTunes.

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 06/26/17.