SANAM // Aykathani Malakon
(Mais Um)

Free-improv spirited electronics and noise rock sonics from one of the most exciting bands in Beirut.

Hailing from Beirut’s endlessly fascinating experimental music scene, SANAM make their debut appearance with an album equally daring and engaging. The six-piece are comprised of players who have been entrenched in other Lebanese bands for a long time, bringing together a typical rock formation of drums, guitars and bass with additional electronics and Farah Kaddour’s buzuq playing. 

Although the band are presented as something akin to free-improvisation, there’s a lot more structure to their songs than that tag would imply. ‘Ya Nass (O People) يا ناس’ especially lands with the precision and purpose of a great anti-pop track, and as well as the sharp accent of the artfully spacious groove, it’s hugely down to the power of Sandy Chamoun’s incredible vocals. Her voice becomes the centrifugal force of the album, allowing the swathes of nervy textures and pointed drums to swirl around her without losing focus. 

There’s also a steady rhythmic thrust from drummer Pascal Semerdjian in many places, from the snappy breakbeat thrum of ‘Bell بل’  to the patient rumble of ’94 ٩٤’, played with delicacy but absolutely anchoring the music in a way so much free-improv music isn’t. These steadier elements are all the better for the mesmerising playing taking place elsewhere, as experimental guitar textures and buzuq intertwine in the band’s considered balance between traditional Egyptian and Arabic music and contemporary rock.

SANAM move comfortably between different energies too, adept at slipping into a downtempo mode on ‘Mouathibatti (My Torturer) معذبتي’ which comes on like trip-hop embellished with virtuoso noise. ‘Shajar Al-Touti (The Mulberry Trees) شجر التوت’ finds the band in a more fragmented mode, exploring a deconstructed landscape which lends itself to the shimmering splendour of the component parts of their sound. 

There’s so much to take in on this brooding masterpiece of a record, which feels like a portal into the heart of Middle Eastern experimental music.