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Cairo Artist J!N Reflects on Laboured Lockdown in ‘Mechanical Love’ EP

The Egyptian singer-songwriter looks back at a difficult 2020 with tired eyes, the six tracks wallowing in a soulful melancholy.

Seen throughout 2021 cavorting alongside Shunus as part of colourful duo, Wolf Fang Midi, singer-songwriter, J!N, has flown solo once again, releasing a new EP, Mechanical Love, on Egyptian label, HIZZ.


While Wolf Fang Midi saw J!N explore the world of synthwave, her solo work has always wandered through some sort of experimental cloud of trip-hop, ambient and indie pop, wrapped up in a shimmering sheen of melancholy.


In her latest work, a six-track album, she reflects on the impact that the pandemic-induced lockdown has inflicted on her psyche and relationship with music as she comes to terms with how being “holed up for months transcended my vulnerability into music.”

 

She speaks of it as “speculation of what was,” yet through the six tracks, the effects clearly linger, hanging over her every line.


The title-track opener sets the tone, a combination of sweeping synth keys, warbles and J!N’s wistful, wailing vocals melding into an ethereal fog that threatens to break into a celestial ecstasy, teasing it but never getting there.Male vocals mirror J!N’s in ‘Clwds’, a track defined by a languid, lazy drumming that wouldn't be amiss in a smoky jazz track, though it moves more deliberately in a couple of instrumental breaks and spaced-out, retro-kissed keys paint a flickering, neon-lit despair. ‘Sometimes’ is best described as minimalist dark neo-soul, its melancholy leaning closer to sinister than gloomy, while ‘Cell528’ takes a turn into a soft psychedelia, In ‘Call’, meanwhile, J!N sounds uncannily like Erykah Badu in what is arguably the EP’s highlight track. An anxious piece that surprises as it builds, it’s shifting, marching beat is the only constant as other elements wade in and out, including booming, twisted drones and what sounds like a scything, processed woodwind instrument.


Things end on a question mark. ‘Prince Charming’ is lighter, maybe even ‘happier’. It certainly exists in a brighter space, though it brews in a way that makes you question if the good prince did indeed take our heroine into the sunset. It also arguably captures the name of the EP best. It is indeed mechanical, a simple loping key progression persisting, nagging, throughout, though its overall sparseness circles it back to the album’s introspection, a decidedly and exclusively human one that she uses to raise questions and maybe even cleanse herself of at least some their burdens.