October 26th sees the latest release from celebrated British-Lebanese songwriter Nadine Khouri. Following her lauded 2017 album The Salted Air, the new three track EP A New Dawn was self-produced and recorded in London. With sessions taking place in-between touring commitments, the resulting tracks were mixed by Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse, Julien Baker).
As well as releasing New Dawn, Khouri has also shared a touching tribute to Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous with a cover of Spirit Ditch. Recorded on the back of a tour with Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley, Khouri spoke of her admiration for Linkous’ work:
“I still remember the first time I heard Sparklehorse as a kid. I was completely arrested by the music and it was unlike any I’d ever heard. Mark had beautiful songs of course – from the raucous to the most delicate – and yet it always felt like a privilege being allowed into his musical world…. I was touring with my friend Adrian Crowley earlier this year and he had a Mellotron with him on the road. It came up that we were both huge fans (Linkous played Mellotron on many of his recordings) so we played ‘Spirit Ditch’ a few times on tour… His music had a huge influence on us both. I hope people will continue to discover and honour his work.”
Displaced from her native Lebanon as a child, her family settled in London. There, Nadine Khouri pestered her family every birthday and Christmas for a guitar. With her parents relenting when she reached her teens, Khouri taught herself to play and became enthralled by songwriting. Her musical career began playing a mix of folk and indie, as an acoustic singer-songwriter while studying in New York. Returning to London, Nadine passed a recording of her songs to legendary producer John Parish (PJ Harvey) at a gig. Not holding much hope of hearing back.
Calling her up to feature on his Screenplay LP in 2013, Parish went on to produce her debut album The Salted Air released in February last year. A captivating dreamscape of songs that cover the themes of loss, separation and identity. The Salted Air earned plaudits from the likes of MOJO and Drowned In Sound together with the Q Feb 2017 Critics Choice. The albumwas also named as one of Rough Trade’s Albums of the Year 2017.
This new EP opens with the gentle drone of a harmonium on title track A New Dawn. Its compact, melancholic melodies have Khouri’s gentle but full voice melting over beautify arranged strings. Its grounded refrain of “Now I’ve found my way, I think I’ll stay” contrasting with the dislocation of The Salted Air.
Drawing on the memories of her childhood in a war zone, To Sleep sees Nadine Khouri’s nylon guitar strings backed by the plucked pizzicato of violinist Basia Bartz’. Soothing her younger self to sleep amongst the shelling of Beirut, Nadine said of To Sleep:
“This song was never intended for release, but it breathed a new life when I played it for Basia and Vince, who play violin and piano. More generally, it’s about how art can act as a lifeline and help you out of whatever awful situation you happen to be in.”
Final track The Hours is an eight-minute epic whose soaring, orchestral opening by band mates Basia Bartz (violin) and Huw Bennett (double-bass) gives way to a simple guitar. It builds gently with riding cymbals and brushed snare before this smoky, jazz tinged call for empowerment bursts into light like a sunrise.
A New Dawn is a beautifully written, expertly arranged and wonderfully performed EP that features a number of guests. Including Jake Long (drums), Khouri’s longtime musical collaborator J Allen (backing vocal, organ), Lizzy O’Connor (backing vocal, percussion) Vince Webb (piano) and Alan Weatherhead (Optigan, Mellotron) who help realize the vision of Nadine Khouri’s songs. Songs that make this impressive EP feel simultaneously vast and intimate.
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