Quite unexpectedly for a duo that have consistently characterised themselves via their noisy high energy ecstatic bombast, the opening piece from their expanded live orchestra begins as solo voice, but what a voice it is.
Using extended vocal techniques its part wail, gargle whimper and, and evocative, a remarkable piece of vocal gymnastics, unaccompanied until the three and a half minute mark, where finally the instrumentation arrives and it sounds big, muscular and foreboding. What a statement. We’re entering Diamanda Galas territory here, this strange droning slab of immense power building around the vocals, before eventually it encompasses and eclipses them. Of course from here the only way is up, so they don’t do that, instead the piece becomes characterised by its restraint, with subtle gestures from all of the participants, before it evolves into an extended oud solo. It’s an intriguing and totally unexpected opening salvo. It feels improvised, though clearly there was also someone orchestrating live, dictating who plays when, but it’s still loose.
It’s quite instructive though, the duo of Paed Conca and Raed Yassin have very clearly opened their Praed project to others, not simply asked for guests to play along with along their music, but to take some ownership and move it into entirely new directions.
That said the addition of horns, synths, keys, and hand percussion, to some of their classic upbeat tunes like Doomsday Survival Kit, The Spy Who Spoke Too Much and Embassy of Embarrassment provide additional bulk, the wordless vocals in particular are a welcome, if not strange addition
It’s a real mix between these highly structured pieces, albeit embellished upon with the new players and these near structureless unexpected experimental, seemingly quite improvised interludes of either new pieces, or pieces created for this live show. Regardless, all the pieces are 10 minute plus jams, yet there’s real subtlety and beauty here, a real consideration given to frequencies and dynamics.
The album comes from a live show at Calligraphy Square on November 3rd, 2018 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. This is the lineup:
Paed Conca: Clarinet, Electric Bass, Electronics
Raed Yassin: Synthesizers, Vocals, Electronics
Alan Bishop: Alto Saxophone, Vocals
Nadah El Shazly: Vocals, keyboard, Electronics
Christine Kazarian: Electric Harp
Hans Koch: Bass Clarinet, Soprano Sax
Martin Kuchen: Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Sax
Maurice Louca: Keyboard, Organ
Radwan Ghazi Moumneh: Buzuk, Vocals, Modular Synthesizer
Sam Shalabi: Electric Guitar, Oud
Ute Wassermann: Vocals, Mouth Harp, Whistles
Khaled Yassine: Drums, Percussion, Darbuka
Michael Zerang: Drums, Percussion
It’s always been hard to describe what Praed do. Psychedelic shaabi has always almost worked, but the addition of these guests takes things into a truly experimental improvisational realm, existing alongside the likes of Dwarfs of East Agouza (who not surprisingly are all this orchestra), creating a brave new semi improvised experimental music.
The creation of this orchestra is an enormous undertaking, as is filling it with forward thinking risk taking musicians. It’s great that these efforts have been documented. Hopefully it’s the start of many Praed Orchestra albums because although the music of Praed is the launching pad, it now something else, something further, and something epic.