Boomkat Product Review:
Lebanese musician, composer and musicologist Youmna Saba positions her voice at the center of her latest solo album, exploring the sonic properties of sung Arabic phonemes and questioning their role in shaping synthesised electronic sounds.
'Wishah' means veil in Arabic, and is seen by Saba as a goodbye to her home, written after she left Beirut to settle in Paris. She splits the album into five discreet parts or stages, using a digitally enhanced oud she developed herself to pick up the instrument's subtle secondary sounds, electronics and of course, her voice. The technique is most recognizable on 'Ba'oud', a complex composition that begins by magnifying the sound of fingers scraping on strings, overlaying this with delicate, spacious plucks. Saba's words sound chilling in this intangible zone, sailing gracefully over the unusual cluster of metallic squeaks and sparse tones.
'Al khayal' meanwhile is altogether different, beginning with unsettling, bass-heavy drones and gradually folding in the oud's resonant melodies. Saba's voice doesn't join until the final third, where it floats over distorted growls, juxtaposing rugged, subterranean ugliness with beguiling beauty. And on the dizzying finale 'Tareeq', her vocals add just a ghostly whisper to the track's springy, isolated atmosphere, that slowly evolves into a subby, disquieting rumble and terrifying ASMR scratches. Very strong material indeed.