Arooj Aftab
Night Reign


5.0
classic

Review

by Mike Kaplan STAFF
June 6th, 2024 | 29 replies


Release Date: 05/31/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: We’ll fade into the night.

I tend to rely heavily on the use of metaphors and excessive adjectives to explain my thoughts concerning an album—which is both a blessing and a curse. While it makes it easier for readers to relate to what I’m trying to explain, it also doesn’t really lend to actually exploring what makes an album good or bad in a purely musical sense. I am admittedly not as familiar with scales, notes and chords as some other critics might be, and my adjective-ridden, flowery prose sometimes comes across as pretentious, even to me.

It is especially damning when I come across an album that defies my own logic; that leaves me so reverent that no description or metaphor could really do it justice. While I could come up with a million different words to explain why this album is a special record, it wouldn’t actually matter—the only thing that could really be done is to tell you to listen to it, because no amount of words would properly capture the beauty of this record.

In the spirit of encouraging you to listen to what is definitely a new contender for my album of the year though, I am going to try my best to put my thoughts to into words. I don’t think Arooj Aftab is going to read this review, but in the strange possibility that she does, please forgive me—my written words are really only a shoddy substitute for the thoughts I had while listening to Night Reign.

If we start by the layers on which this album is built, it would seem appropriate to begin with the rhythm section—as so much of its genius is placed in simplicity. The arrangements are never overly complex, and the melodic instrumentation and Aftab’s voice float over bass lines and percussion segments that feel as unchangeable as the ebb and flow of the tide. This sort of foundation is the key to creating the enthralling atmosphere of Night Reign.

Atop that foundation, Aftab utilizes a diverse array of instrumentals to create a tapestry of sound that is as haunting as it is beautiful. The improvisational work throughout Nigh Reign is top notch, with guest appearances from musicians such as Vijay Iyer, Joel Ross and James Francies. What is most impressive about it though, is how the arrangements are both unique and manage to seamlessly blend into a unified whole, The album is thematically cohesive with regard to the picture that Aftab is trying to paint, not only with the pacing and overall feel of the album, but with regard to the genres employed. The elements of both folk and jazz that are used complement each other in a consistent and engaging manner, with neither genre overpowering the other.

All of it though, from rhythm to instrumentals, takes a back seat to Aftab’s voice. It is the gold thread that is woven through the aforementioned musical tapestry. Singing in Urdu and English, Aftab delivers a breathtaking performance that floats above the album as a guiding star. Further, Aftab has a keen knowledge of when to take control of the music and when to let the music speak for itself, which only adds to the ethereal atmosphere created throughout the album. The sometimes minimalistic approach she takes would be infuriating if it weren't for the fact that I would find myself waiting in anticipation to hear her sing again.

The sum of it all is an album that conveys the oft contradictory feeling of contemplative loneliness—like realizing you're the last person left at the bar stuck in your thoughts, or catching the perfect sunset but not having anyone to share it with. It is an album that embraces the quiet solitude of a night spent alone, looking at the ocean.



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user ratings (31)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Manatea
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2024


1956 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Heavy aoty contender



Also jazz folk

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2024


26315 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sooooo ready for more arooj fuck yes

DoofDoof
June 6th 2024


15277 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

definitely enjoyed this the most of all her released work so far

Trifolium
June 6th 2024


39278 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"sooooo ready for more arooj fuck yes" [2]



When my current Beth-mood subsides a little (...if?), this is up next!

someone
Contributing Reviewer
June 6th 2024


6719 Comments


I'm really glad somebody like Aftab are getting all the hype these days. It's a deep and hearty breath of fresh air

Butkuiss
June 6th 2024


7224 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Glad this got a review — it sorely needed it. Feels a bit more scattershot than Vulture Prince, and while I get the appeal, it falls short of that one’s majesty for me, but oh well! Glad everyone else is loving it, and it’s definitely interesting to hear Aftab dive further into jazz, especially after the very ECM-style collab w Iyer and Ismaili that dropped last year.

Manatea
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2024


1956 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hey everybody

Ya it’s a really good album. I’m probably gushing about it more than everyone else will but it took me by surprise

Demon of the Fall
June 6th 2024


34386 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

noticed this elsewhere and definitely bookmarking the thread for future use



nice one

bloc
June 6th 2024


70370 Comments


Great album, but it's a bit TOO slow sometimes

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2024


60907 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

reaaaaally nice album, falls of a little in the second half (though i dig the closer) but otherwise lovely stuff, will be spending a lot of time with this



re. use of figurative language in reviews, there is nothing pretentious about using any devices at your disposal to bring an album down to earth (obvs a different story if you're writing the review to make it All About You (as per a lot of vintage sputwrites) or to tie the record into a wider thesis) — technical descriptions are incapable of this for most readers unless you flesh out a descriptive framework for them. i get the pressure that comes with trying to put any music you have strong positive feelings about into words, but at the end of the day you're just tracing an outline not building a transmedia counterpart



so write more boi lfg

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
June 6th 2024


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Waiting for a quiet evening to put my headphones on and really be absorbed into this one. Nice writeup, Manatea!

Hawks
June 6th 2024


89540 Comments


Will be jamming this tonight. Looks and sounds sick.

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
June 6th 2024


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The quiet evening was tonight and my lord, this is wonderful. Absolutely an AOTY contender

Calc
June 7th 2024


17367 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album rules yup

Manatea
Staff Reviewer
June 7th 2024


1956 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hey thanks for stopping by everyone! Glad y’all are digging it!!! Wonderful album.



@johnny i appreciate your input on this. I guess i feel like sometimes i rely on my using figurative devices is a bit shallow or feels incomplete, but you’re right i do need to write more

Demon of the Fall
June 7th 2024


34386 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah, this is really good. Cohesive sound palette despite a few would-otherwise-be stark tangents. The 'exotic' tags on *insert other website* got my attention



Nice review Manatea.

RadioNew03
June 7th 2024


188 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Just discovered this and I’m completely blown away by this, it’s stunning!!! now checking out her discography

OmairSh
June 7th 2024


17616 Comments


Oh wow didn’t expect to see an Arooj review here

Pakistan represent 👊🏽

Demon of the Fall
June 7th 2024


34386 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

RYM says she was born in Saudi Arabia, is there a family connection to Pakistan?



I think some of her influences perhaps. No idea, just going by the profile / genre tags and was curious, as I didn’t recognise a few of the influences

Demon of the Fall
June 7th 2024


34386 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Qawwali says it was developed in India & Pakistan, for instance



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