Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl Box Set
The title of Jerusalem In My Heart’s new album Qalaq, is an Arabic word with multiple meanings that producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh translates as “deep worry.” In truth, the long-running Montréal multimedia project has never been worry-free; past albums use a fusion of Arabic instrumentation and electronic sound design to process subjects like ongoing conflicts in of Lebanon—Moumneh’s birthplace—and Palestinian erasure in Gaza. But in a unique time of so many compounding sorrows, such a layered word feels right. Constructed from recordings shared with collaborators across the globe during lockdown, Qalaq is an intimate album of orchestral proportions and the most ambitious release of Jerusalem In My Heart’s long career.
Each of these tracks features a different collaborator. While that can often be challenging to hold together as an album, Qalaq’s power is only amplified by its large cast. There’s a genuine sense that each of these artists are bringing their own concerns and strengths to the table. “Situated between the cracks of a broken tomorrow/ I worry,” intones Moor Mother on “Qalaq 3,” part of the title suite stretching half the album. Percussionists Greg Fox and Diana Combo contribute blast beats and finger drumming, Tim Hecker and Fly Pan Am’s Roger Tellier-Craig scramble sounds, while Lucrecia Dalt and legendary Canadian filmmaker, singer, and First Nations activist Alanis Obomsawin deliver haunting vocals. Absorbing passages of buzuk (like “Istashraqtaq,” with Beirut) are reminiscent of early Jerusalem in My Heart, but Moumneh mostly embraces the unknown here, finding a brief beautiful respite in “Qalaq 5” and chaos in the abrupt closing sound collage “Qalaq 9.” Moumneh offers no release to this deep worry in the end, but Jerusalem In My Heart has never been interested in simple catharsis. Instead he finds a strength in unity, an essential theme to this remarkable project, that Qalaq expresses on an inspiringly global scale.