By Kira Grunenberg | Published November 2019
Adding to a career that already includes 15 live and studio albums, and music in major film soundtracks, vocalist Natacha Atlas returns with Strange Days, a recording that wastes no time building a sophisticated atmosphere on “Out Of Time.”
With complex piano chords opening the program, listeners might presume neoclassical is Atlas’ genre of choice. However, the dry-toned snare roll and soft-edged trumpet that follow unveil a solid jazz aesthetic. The subsequent ascending half-steps and Atlas’ vocal fluctuations—delivered as subtle melismas and loose pitch transitions—gradually reveal her intent to integrate Eastern tonality. The idea of combining the already flexible nature of improvisational jazz with melodies that contain flashes of harmonic minor and Phrygian dominant scales,initially seems like a recipe for tonal confusion. But Strange Days exercises its compositional boldness with moderation: The approachable melodic phrases of “Inherent Rhythm” stand out, the deft touch of violinists providing intriguing textures. With Strange Days, Atlas delivers a refined musical experience, one that encourages reveling in the most meditative parts of the human imagination.
Strange Days: Out Of Time; Maktoub; Min Baad; All The Madness; Sunshine Day; Lost Revolutions; Inherent Rhythm; Words Of A King; It’s A Man’s World; Moonchild. (58:13)
Personnel: Natacha Atlas, vocals, electronics; Samy Bishai, violin, viola, guitar, vocals, electronics; Hayden Powell, trumpet, flugelhorn; Robinson Khoury, trombone; Alcyona Mick, piano; Andy Hamill, bass; Asaf Sirkis, Laurie Lowe, drums; Joss Stone, Tanya Wells, Sofiane Saidi, vocals; Idris Rahman, tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute; Paulo Vinicius, acoustic guitar; Oli Savill, Vasilis Sarikis, percussion; Vincent Greene, Mandy Drummond, viola; Ivan Hussey, Chris Worsey, cello; Emma Smith, Jennymay Logan, Stephen Hussey, Gillon Cameron, Sally Jackson, violin.