Review Summary: Emotional and invigorating: ‘Nour’ is the one of the best albums of the New Age genre and 2008.
Like a middle-class white boy professing the brilliance of generic radio pop to a group of moleskine scribbling indie fags, I too feel out of place as I begin to review an album based on a culture I know virtually nothing about. But as I listen to the tribal arabesque rhythms of Shiva in Exile’s ‘Nour’ I think to myself about the mastermind behind the operation; a German PC game soundtrack composer who has a history as a vocalist in a Gothic Metal band, Darkseed. This project is not about tapping into eruditional efforts or well-travelled elitism, but enjoying a rendition
of eastern music, which may not be socially accurate, without cultural or racial limitations. For the enjoyment of music is universal and defies ethnic learning and expectancies. ‘Nour’ creates a soothing, mystical feel to a series of electronic beats likely to inspire as well as excite. An emphasis is based on creating the bizarre and sonically contrary adaption of a lavish Arabic festival complete with belly-dancers and a xylopia (or should I say, exile
-opia) filled garth. Unlikely to swing haters of the frequently shunned genre, ‘Nour’ will quite possibly be at head of the strongest records of 2008 that nobody ever knew existed.
While ‘Nour’ is a New Age album, and offers mild lilting moments it could be arguably considered an album for dancing as much as it is for relaxation. Whilst the New Age genre is normally left for the trite and the faint-hearted, this album proves that you don’t have to be either to enjoy the music. Beneath the exotic Arabic influences lay vibrant and poppy synths that add life and energy to the tracks. And when it’s not lifting you to your feet, it’s the ebbing of soft ambient music which drives you into a blithe, eastern nirvana. All boxes had been ticked already, although the inclusion of a stunning vocal performance has lifted this performance into outlying regions achieved only by truly gifted performers. ‘Nour’ is a spectacular album for occasional listeners and a wonderful addition to the New Age genre.
The cover is decorated with a golden dragon and no surprises are tossed out as the first song kicks in with chirping insects followed by a shaken percussive instrument tune. It’s a sound that you could bet was lifted straight from Disney’s Aladdin. Titled, Viva La Revolucion
, we know that it’s not all simple ditties and fairytale frolics from here on in. And very soon we are introduced to the vocal talents of Yana Veva. It is an absolutely amazing feat by this young European girl who manages to sing with undistinguishable gusto to a genuine Arabic singer. If the music was pushed to the side, the vocal talents would be enough alone to swing any interested listener. The wavering of this striking luscious voice as it dips between fragile murmurs and bold, powerful cries is a pleasurable and rare indulgence. To sit among the so-called, ‘beautiful vocalists’ of today would do little justice to her talents, for she is far greater than most others out there. Never does it feel like the vocals are piercing onto the scene and detracting from the music because as it rises, it also falls, and eventually fades into the murky beats of the middle-eastern atmosphere like a handful of sand being carried off on warm breezes.
Perhaps it is the opening of the second track, Anubis
, where we see what the album was all about. The beat is catchier than the opener and the vocals are proudly exhibited as Veva’s enigmatic call wafts between several levels until catching on a high note and morphed into a fuzzy alarm as if it were just another electronic note. The best example of her sleight can be heard between the 2:50 and 3:15 minute marks of this song. Powerful and emotional, powerful. And if it isn’t the supernal vocals that grab you, the progressive movements of the instruments are a likely reason to yield. The unconventional sounds being explored are awesome and rewarding for multiple listens. The peculiar reserve of instruments includes stringed, woodwind and percussive elements modernized with a layer of digital production qualities and marvelous synthesizers. These instruments are littered throughout the album, being given varied opportunity for song control although mostly providing a nice, peaceful distraction to the empowering rhythms.
, the fourth track provides a highlight to the album when aching vocals give way to a wavering woodwind resonator which soughs through the heart, before later opening up into an epic journeying among strong, flute-led highs and beautiful, ambient lows. This style is used on other glorious tracks which have blasting electronic beats that supplement the middle-eastern arrangement such as Sazenu
with its fast-moving beat and well-flowing vocals. He’neya
has a similar delivery to Sah’de
with the track title being repeated often by Veva, although this time the electronic sound is more upbeat and has a very synthetic feel. Other highlights include the New Age laden We’re All One
, the ambitious Belt of Fate
, and the tribal atmosphere of Khundas
. Although a few tracks are weaker such as the slow Desert of Yanus
and Blue Healing
, it is acceptable because these more reflective and gentle tracks provide padding between the constant oriental assault.
At almost 70 minutes, Nour is a solid release of daring and blissful New Age, World Music and Ambient music. It is easy to declare that any one of the tracks is sufficient in bringing you away from the trite sound of which ever genres you enjoy, and that the entire album in one sitting is too much, however, the level of detail and professionalism achieved in this unique record is not to be disregarded. To argue a rating of 3.5 is easy, but this album pushes boundaries, rarely breached by others in the genre to create an innovative and beautiful result that truly leads the genre. If the oriental themes of bands such as Nile or Orphaned Land appealed to you, giving this album a listen will blow you away. Nobody ever knows when they are going to hear something that will stick with them for a long time, however, Shiva in Exile might just give them that chance.
Shiva in Exile’s “Nour” is out 27th October, 2008 via Listen & Think Publishing