Jerusalem in My Heart is the audio-visual project of Montreal-based producer and musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, also known as the co-owner of the renowned Hotel2Tango recording studio where almost all of Montreal’s experimental scene has recorded. The origins of the project date back to 2005, but it was not until 2013 with the release of Mo7it Al-Mo7it that we were introduced to the hallucinatory visions of Moumneh. The project focuses on the reinterpretation and reconfiguration of Arabic folk music, exploring the aesthetics of traditional Middle-Eastern and Arabic music traditions. The band’s sophomore release If He Dies, If If If If If If saw this concept coming to full fruition, while the release with fellow experimentalists Suuns, saw Moumneh inject the collaboration’s indie/noise textures with folk-inspired intersections.
Jerusalem in My Heart now returns with Daqa’iq Tudaiq, furthering their exploration of folk concepts. The new record is split into two sides, with the first displaying an expanded vision from Moumneh. Here, the artist realizes one of his dreams, in recording the classic Egyptian song “Ya Garat Al Wadi”. By assembling a 15-piece orchestra and working with the great Sam Shalabi (Land of Kush, Dwarfs of East Agouza), Moumneh rediscovers much of the magic of the track, turning into an experimental field trip. Distortion and noise join with aspects of electronic production to take the track to another level, with Moumneh also changing the title to “Wa Ta’atalat Lought Al Kalam”, which translates to “The Language of Speech Has Broke Down”, to further highlight the problems of our times.
The first side immediately showcases Moumneh’s experimental tendencies as the subtle drones and tensive ambiances come together and build an atmosphere that transitions organically into the Middle Eastern melodies. The orchestra proves to be a potent element, resulting in a fantastically rich sonic offering, as the numerous instruments meet to bring together this moment of transcendental experimental folk music under the guidance of Shalabi. There is a certain spiritual element that sprouts from many forms of traditional music, but there is something distinct about the Arabic melodies and the language that turns this track into such an opus. The progression of the tracks passes through different areas, from minimalistic parts and heavy atmospheres to moments of free-jazz spirituality and drunken rendition.
The second side of the record takes a different approach, and where the folk element was dominant in “Wa Ta’atalat Lought Al Kalam”, it is the experimental aspect that takes the lead now. “Ben Ilthnein” sees Moumneh produce a track that takes on the characteristics of the repetitive, circular progression usually found in krautrock, producing a mesmerizing offering. The buzuk and the percussion come together to lead the way through these bizarre, hazy projections while the repetitive motifs build this sonic illusion to great ends. Noise injections and synthesizers near the end of the track further highlight the hybrid existence of the project, attempting to balance between their Arabic origin and the post-rock, experimental music scope.
Still more straightforward moments exist in “Layali Al-Rast” which sees the buzuk take the lead in a solitary landscape, as Moumneh applies effects to alter its timbral characteristics while putting down multiple layers of the instrument to create a more hectic and busy soundscape. However, it is the futuristic obsession of the producer that steals the show. “Thahab, Mish Roujou’, Thahab” he uses distortion on the vocals to paint the soundscapes in brilliant, vibrant colors, performing a very subtle and elegant transformation of the Arabic music tradition.
With Daqa’iq Tudaiq Moumneh once again reveals his intricacy of coalescing the two different worlds that make the core of Jerusalem in My Heart. While the record sees him expanding that scope in the first side with the orchestral rendition of “Ya Garat Al Wadi” it does not feel like he covers too much new ground. It still results in a strong release, but it feels that there is still much more that can be uncovered.