Reinventing yourself as an artist is tough. Constant comparisons to prior works, crowds clamouring for the hits, pressures from labels. And yet, here is one who, with his latest album FLIGHT, has achieved this and more.
Blues-punk wordsmith Hanni El Khatib’s new creation is unlike anything he’s put out before – and we’re going to treat it as such. Such a towering effort of reconstruction deserves an equally open-minded review.
So here we go: casting out all expectations, here’s our track by track LIVE listen & review of Hanni El Khatib’s latest album, FLIGHT.
Alright, we’re kicking off with a claustrophobic, grunge-blues synth wave mash-up. I couldn’t put a genre label on this if I tried. This is a good sign. We’re less than 2 mins in, and I’m digging it.
The rug’s been yanked out from under me already. GLASSY is some lazy, stoner synth – somewhere between Mac de Marco, Asher Roth’s newest stuff, and Tyler the Creator. Smells like sunshine, this one. Poolside chilling.
Okay, this is the first track over two mins and I might actually be able to write more than three sentences. I’m waiting to sink into this album fully – still figuring out the intention, the vision. I’m thinking of summer barbecues, roll ups, beers and sepia memories. Even as I try to view this album as a standalone musical experience, I’m surprised – so far, everything is light and airy, ideal for driving slow down a clear road, tarmac hazy in the heat. I’d expected heavy riffs and rage – though perhaps they’re coming.
Loving these samples. Hanni El Khatib’s sound design is thoughtful and intricate. I’ve not heard anything quite like this. Ponderous, confident, unrushed.
Heavy rolling bass, industrial drums, and a Strokes-esque snarl on the mic and – oh, OH – now it’s all fingerclicks. I’m in a brawl with the music at this point. He is refusing to be pigeonholed in any way, shape or form. Respect, EK. STRESSY is your grumpy day fuck-up jam. Save it for when your boss gives you a bollocking and you need to let off some steam.
The sonic recreation of a guilt and anxiety-addled comedown. Warped vocal samples and giant sinking bass notes open up a wormhole in your messed-up bed.
Here there be hyperactive vocals and manic, tribal drums. I’m reminded of Santigold, of MIA, but there’s something else here, hard to articulate. Like… imagine a snake charmer on bath salts.
This could be chill; it could be dark – it’s on you. Napping in sunrays through slatted blinds, or zoning out on the commute home, rain lashing the windows.
Oho, HARLOW’s put a wee smile on me chops. It’s a charming, plodding love song, unfurled with a bold irreverence that seems effortless for El Khatib. It’s tender, but never soggy. Nice balance.
You’ve gotta love any track that has a back chorus of ‘dumb’ descending in pitch. There’s pain here, masked behind clever soundscapes and carefree innovation. This sort of innovation is rare – creative sincerity is not something you come across too often.
Now we’ve leapt forward a century or two – all is neon, all is purple and black. After HARLOW’s optimism, the defiance in the face of love’s adversity on HOW comes as a surprise. Loneliness drips from this track, but it’s not moping or morose… it’s kind of gorgeous.
Whoa. It’s as though, during its melancholic pacing, HOW has worn out the floor of its lovelorn apartment and crashed down into the last few lazy hours of a Berlin sex party below. The synths are fatter, the groove is jazzier. They’re playing this on repeat down in Hell’s lobby.
Aha. Here are those guitars I expected – just after I’d given up expecting them, of course. One last underfoot carpet-yank from El-Khatib on this perplexing, refreshing, bouncing psychedelic odyssey of an album. ‘No one understands my pain’ he rasps into the mic. If El Khatib’s pain is anywhere near as original, complex and effervescent as this album – good heavens, I’m not surprised.