We are witnessing a burgeoning jazz scene in London, a resurgence that looks set to give us a return of the jazz filled 20s once again. One of the driving forces at the heart of this tidal wave of compelling, new music, is British-Bahraini composer and trumpet player, Yazz Ahmed, who has been cited as ‘redefining what jazz means in the 21st century’. La Saboteuse Remixed is her latest offering, released on Naim Records this summer.

Following the 2017 release of ‘La Saboteuse’, her highly acclaimed psychedelic Arabic jazz album, this remix EP brings together three of Europe’s eminent electronic DJs. This confluence of individual artistic visions creates music of deeply saturating polyrhythms, placing the listener into a curious state of relaxed tension. The sense of a personal narrative runs through all of Ahmed’s work and here is no exception. La Saboteuse as a whole is a journey of self-examination and with this remix EP, the reflection continues in both linear and abstract directions.

Ahmed’s symbiotic collaboration with illustrator Sophie Bass also continues, in celebratory style. Above a familiar desert landscape, dripping with symbolism and intrigue, the ever present fish soars high in a galaxy of stars, overseeing the eternal dance between the demonic Saboteuse and the spiritual creative force of the Sufi. Harmony and balance is restored through the natural healing power of water.

Produced by Noel Langley, the original album paints a sinuous far reaching soundscape. The reevaluation of the inner well of self doubt as a strength, a resource to be celebrated, to take nourishment from, is heavily sewn through all the tracks. Three pieces from the original album have been reimagined. Meaning and substance, borrowed from the source tracks, are filtered through an alternative perspective, each collaborator adding their own strand to the unfolding story. These virtual conversations between the artist and the remixer, with the addition of her own creative response to this process, result in four stand-alone pieces, which together will extend the listener’s journey through a mystical land of snakes and desert sands.


Hector Plimmer
Hector Plimmer’s forte is the combination of visual and auditory arts. Around for a little while, he had a track released on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Bubblers label compilation in 2014. The recipient of the prestigious PRS Steve Reid InNOVAtion Award in 2015 this led to tutorship by Four Tet, Floating Points and Gilles Peterson. The South London based DJ and graphic artist, released Sunshine in 2017, his full length debut, on Albert’s Favourites, earning industry distinction. Following this release Plimmer conducted a full self-remix album of both the tracks and artwork, leading Subtempo to say, “It’s hard to improve an original piece of music as good as the album itself, but with these remixes, this rises to a new level.” An Escheresque tessellation of shapes form the basis of the album artwork, splintering across the page while retaining a cohesive shape. With The Lost Pearl, he shows us yet another facet to his art, deftly sculpting a mesmeric original into a rarified groove to get down to.

DJ Khalab
The Italian self proclaimed ‘Afro-Futurist Beatmaker’, has had releases on close collaborator Clap! Clap!’s Black Acre and in 2015 produced the eponymous DJ Khalab and Baba Sissoko with Malian master musician Baba Sissoko. The weaving, electronic substrata of the album is imbued with tribal drums and fervent synths, creating mesmeric, complex and layered musical structures. With Jamil Jamal, Khalab takes Ahmed’s original track, suggestive of a caravan traversing a vast desert, and morphs it into a more frenetic examination of space and time. Starting with suspicious circumspection, the restless progression of the track is buoyed midway through, with the power of Shabaka Hutchings’ bass clarinet. Occasionally pausing in suspenseful anticipation, before descending again into an agitated world of overgrown jungle, whereby, at the end of the progression, Yazz’s horns are morphed into a myriad of whirling synths.

Blacksea Não Maya
Straight outta Lisbon, represented by Portugal’s chief dance music label PRÍNCIPE, Blacksea Não Maya are dedicated representing the fundamental realities of life in the suburbs, projects and slums of the city they call home. The trio is formed of brothers DJ Noronha and DJ Kolt, and their long-time friend, DJ Perigoso. They have been collaboratively developing their talents since 2009 and were picked up by PRÍNCIPE in 2012. Since then they have aimed to share their wish that all can “live every day in the festive ambience of Lisbon”. Their dynamic tunes exemplify a vast range of persuasive dance music within each release, coercing and cajoling the listener into a rapturous state. Their phantasmagorical rejig of Al Emadi, Ahmed’s tribute to the ancient Arabic tribe of her forefathers, is transformed into a club banger.

In the whirlpool of global excitement and glowing reviews surrounding the release of ‘La Saboteuse’, Ahmed had her interest piqued by comparisons made to the work of Jon Hassell & Brian Eno’s Fourth World project and the output of Flying Lotus, music which she had not encountered previously. Inspired by these new discoveries and the concept of collaborating with remixers, she decided to contribute a new track of her own to close the EP.

In creating the haunting track ‘The Space Between The Fish & The Moon’, Langley and Ahmed had already begun experimenting with self-sampling and deconstructing existing compositions to make something new. This is the same approach that they used here, taking elements from Spindrifting (La Saboteuse Chapter Three), a few groovy bars of Corinna Silvester’s riqq, fragments of Lewis Wright’s bowed vibraphone, re-worked and re-orchestrated to form a flugelhorn melody. Disparate elements used as material for a collage, endlessly rearranged and reshuffled until the music began to discover what it wanted to be. This is the way Ahmed and Langley work together, things evolve, elements are added, elements are discarded, new material is layered over old, improvisations are developed, themes emerge. Samuel Hällkvist was invited to respond to the work in progress, adding the pulsing guitar arpeggios and Yazz felt this was the right time to reveal her longstanding collaboration with Jason Singh, the voice sculptor and sound designer, incorporating material from one of the soundscapes he had created for her.

‘Spindrifting’ is a rich, dark tapestry of timbres and moods, almost orchestral in places, underpinned by a deep fragmented undulation. It intriguingly points to one of several possible future directions that Ahmed might take with her next full release….

Credit/Source: Prescription PR


Philip Goddard

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