Album of the Day: Nabihah Iqbal, “Weighing of the Heart”

Last year, the British Asian musician Nabihah Iqbal experienced a minor ripple of internet attention with the glitchy slang single “hashtag IRL,” which she released under the name Throwing Shade. The song was built for the times: tiny LED-blip synths, a steady, handclap rhythm, and Iqbal’s disembodied voice stuttering out robotic web-speak like, “hashtag OMG,” “LOL,” and “follow me.” It was a clever, slow-burn synth song, but it also felt a little bit cloying—another producer slowly testing the waters of the burgeoning lo-fi house scene.

All of that self-aware jocularity has been wiped clean on Weighing of the Heart, Iqbal’s stunning full-length debut, released under her own name (the “Throwing Shade” moniker has also been retired). Instead of doubling-down on “hashtag”’s fizzy electronics, Iqbal has shifted hard in the opposite direction, making music that recalls early ‘80s minimalists like Miaow and Section 25. The album opens with a tripping piano phrase, which is quickly suffused in cloudlike synths and topped with Iqbal’s drifting, far-off voice. That sets the tone for the record that follows: stark, shadowy numbers where synth is used as more of a gauzy wrapping than a driving force.

There’s a beautiful, gothic melancholy to Heart: Iqbal’s breathy voice gets tripped up in a tangle of silvery guitars on “Something More;” “Alone Together” uses a glassy waterfall of electronics to create a backdrop for Iqbal to construct a delicate latticework of guitar; “New New Eyes” opens as pulsing post-punk but the song gorgeously evaporates into mist on the chorus, leaving Iqbal’s voice suspended in mid-air. More than anything, Heart recalls the moment in UK pop history when the stern rigidity of bands like Joy Division was giving way to synth-driven—but not explicitly “dancey”—bands like The Wake. It’s a ghostly, enveloping album, beautiful black-lace songs that billow and float.

J. Edward Keyes

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