There’s a breathlessness inherent in Praed’s music, the Swiss/Lebanese experimental duo of Raed Yassin & Paed Conca. They constantly seem to be searching for ecstatic bliss, that feeling of freedom that erupts at a crescendo of chaotic energy. So even when the music begins in a relatively benign fashion, at times even gently, there’s so much anticipation because you know they love nothing more than pushing the pedal to the metal – which makes their sixth album Kaf Afrit so fascinating. It’s inspired by Shams al-Ma’arif, a 13th century esoteric and magic book from Egypt, and sees the duo focussing more on hypnotism and duration, and less on any kind of frenzied dopamine rush. Most of the four pieces on Kaf Afrit (5 if you buy the cd) establish themselves early with these tight Arabic infused electronics and artificial hand percussion (if that’s a thing) and structurally it remains relatively constant aside from the odd flourish or breakdown, placing you deeply within their world. Conca’s clarinet meanwhile weaves in and out crafting a gentle melody, often intersecting with keys. They’re not as frantic here, not so much reliant on increased tempo, density or volume, instead using an increase in pitch to achieve the elevation they’re searching for. They’re also quite playful with intersecting tempos and time signatures, such as on ‘Spell’, where the percussion initially jars with the electronics, before somehow it all jells and falls into place, demonstrating not just boldness, but a real compositional confidence.
Over the years Praed have increasingly become a live band, even helming a 13 piece orchestra, and you get the sense that the pieces on Kaf Afrit have been constructed with an eye to the live arena, both as a counterpoint to the pedal to the metal tunes of previous albums, but they already sound live – so translation may not be much of an issue.
Kaf Afrit sees a different; perhaps more subdued Praed, where the focus has shifted to new elements within their unique blend of Arabic popular music, free-jazz, and experimental electronics. It’s fascinating being party to this journey, as they demonstrate their unrelenting creativity and you never quite know where they’re going to go next.