Leila Abdul-Rauf - Insomnia
"O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's
soft nurse, how have I frightened thee... That thou no more will weigh my
eyelids down, And steep my senses in forgetfulness..."
I am sure that everybody had a rendezvous with this creepy guest at least once in his lifetime. Sometimes it comes escorted by countless problems, sometimes it is wrapped in pale closets of unfulfilled dreams and desires, and sometimes it burns with anger and grievance. But each time its destructive impact poisons a mind, corrupts a vision, sucks the last vital energy out of a restless body. The whole train of thought morphs under a heavy fatigue during early morning hours when you look at the wall clock with your blurry eyes understanding that chances for relief grow weaker and weaker with each spin. But when you already begin to give up hope for some sleep, counting sheep or whatever you count over there, you should take a new record of Leila Rauf; it will not bring you this relief that you are desperately seeking for, but at least it will comfort you during those sleepless hours.
I must admit that I come across the material that Leila Abdul-Rauf releases directly under her name for the first time, maybe because her solo projects received less exposure in the past. As for me, she is more famous for her involvement in different recognizable bands like Amber Asylum and Bastard Noise. But her latest album draws my attention mainly because it was released on one of the sub-labels of Malignant records. Actually, I already got used to the fact that most of the CD’s that emerge through this label during the past few years have a lot to offer their listeners in terms of creativity and entertainment. And according to the good tradition, I purchased my copy of “Insomnia” while being full of positive expectations, though in the end I was surprised with a result which turned out to be even better than expected.
So, what should be the music for such a restless night when the eyes are full of a sand of tiredness, the ears start to hear phantom sounds and all the senses are stretched like guitar strings? If you are looking for spending some time with harsh power electronics or gloomy dark ambient tunes which are being released quite often by Malignant this record is definitely not for you. "Insomnia" has a deep personal origin; the art that is presented in it develops a strong wave of memories which keep you awake, filling the brain with worms of doubts. The album welcomes listeners with some kind of a short preface in which slow and cold tunes of "Midnight" are guided by distant, sobbing vocals. The same low tempo is continued in "Drift" where a distant sound of a trumpet crafts an amazing magical atmosphere. But then appears one of the biggest sensations of the whole record with a code name "The Opening" and I don’t have enough words to describe this incredible track where Leila's mysterious vocals conjure creepy ghosts that dance in the shadows of the sleepless night to the sound of a broken carousel rotating outside the windows of my frozen house. This composition reminds me of the old material of Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Arcana or even Dead Can Dance, but has its own and unique touch that is wrapped in a literally exploding sound of the trumpet.
Apparently, all the tracks are steeped in a frozen air and a deep snow, soaked with an atmosphere of mystery. "Clock Glows" presents a soft string pizzicato together with a deep ambience to carry my body to a distant world full of ice statues towards the next composition that succeeds to leave me speechless once again. "Pull" has everything to become one of my favorite tracks in this musical genre; a gentle piano playing a slow sorrowful melody, a beautiful vocal of a guest singer Kat Young, an amazing solo of the trumpet, all of them fill the poetry of this song with an eternal sadness.
"Sleep, dream, sleep, awake
Immovable, in ache
Levitate, separate mind
From its cumbersome cage
Blankets stay on the bed
As limbs slowly lift and fall
The first time it could not be
The next time I could make it start"
Seconds continue to tick and I
continue to enjoy this product of musical sensation watching intricate patterns
that are being drawn on my window by a cold breath of nature. Three subsequent
tracks follow the same path of a dreamy drift towards another great song "He
Sits in His Room". The pain of severance and loneliness fills the air while a
dead-like vocal of Leila plays with naked strings of my soul. At this point, when
it seems that there is no hope for an even short nap, when a snowy white
blanket of a frozen earth is being colored in half-tones of the dawn, the album
starts to fade away slowly, carrying the remnants of the vital energy. "Dark
Hours of An Early Morning" concludes this journey with an atmosphere of loss, an
atmosphere of frustration and powerlessness.
most objective and passionless of all critics and judges, will tell if "Insomnia" has the right to enter the pantheon of records that stay with us for many years. In
combination, inspired art and innovative, state-of-the-art usage of both piano
and trumpet potential, the product receives distinctive contours, that unique identity
that no review or criticism can capture. As for now, I am very pleased with its
discovery and that I didn't overlook it between dozens of albums being released
out there; I truly believe that Leila Abdul-Rauf crafted something that deserves
to be recognized as one of the best albums of 2015 so far.