A hypnotic acoustic meditation on loss.
Arooj Aftab was born in Pakistan and currently resides in Brooklyn in America and its clear her roots are never far away from her mind. With her third release ‘Vulture Prince’, we are offered an insight in acoustic based musings on loss. Each track touches you in a different way and sheds new light in a romantic, celebratory way. To mourn is to yearn is to remember to smile – no matter how much grief you feel now.
Arooj lost her younger brother whilst writing her new album and whilst loss is everywhere, it is portrayed in a calm and reflective state. That might be the slow-burning guitars of ‘Saans Lo’ which evoke a gentile Cocteau Twins vibe crossed with a sunset prayer. The hushed voice mixed with a distant twinkle of guitar harmonics and wind whooshes makes for an understated yet profound experience. It could be the dynamic vocals of Aftab as she lilts and wanes around harps and violins in ‘Baghon Main’. ‘Diya Hai’ feels like the mysterious sands of time are shifting views and perspectives. It has a simple riff but the freeness of what surrounds it again feels cathartic and comforting.
Other tracks stray from the simple acoustic formula. ‘Last Night’ mixes in urban elements as Arooj Aftab sings one of the few English pieces on the album. Here the beat has a reggae swing to it and the band is jazzy. That jazzy element returns for closer ‘Suroor’ where upright bass, harp, synth and voice create an uptempo piece. As the track progresses it pulls towards an echoing psychedelia as if everything is becoming a mirage. One of Ajoor’s points about the album is that each song is about visiting previous places or states of mind. The fact that she leaves them in a haze is quite telling in how temporary everything and everyone around us are.
The two longest tracks are the glorious ‘Inayaat’ which merges harp, piano, violin and voice together in an ethereal celebration. Meaning care or protection, the track has a motherly feel to it, aided with some beautiful flugelhorn work. The flugelhorn returns for the raj of ‘Mohabbat’ that feels both devotional and abundant with love. Add in some light percussion and early morning bird chirps and you have a delicate enlightenment over eight minutes of joyous music.
‘Vulture Prince’ is a magical album. Arooj Aftab has a knack of adding lots of tiny layers of music together that still feel uncluttered and fluffy. Her voice is absolutely divine too as she effortlessly calms your soul whilst passing the emotion on too. She manages to make so much sound like so little and yet make a colossal impact with every noise. Stunning.
Recommended track: Baghon Main
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