Sarah Badr aka FRKTL just released her latest album Qualia, a fantastically constructed piece mixing experimental neo-classical and ambient electronica bringing forth a refreshingly new sound to Egypt's growing musical landscape.
Recently, a young fresh-sounding Egyptian landed on our musical radar with a multitude of releases on her Soundcloud, all of which have a certain niche sound that showcase her personality, garnering her plenty of interest. Sarah Badr, aka FRKTL is one of Egypt's hottest rising experimental musicians. Her sound is hard to pin down, but she describes it as neo-classical, post-industrial, experimental ambient. Her latest album, Qualia, made its debut a week ago, showcasing this unique fusion of sounds which we decided to review as it refreshingly stands out in Egypt's musical soundscape.
Qualia wastes no time attracting listeners beginning with Ex Ante a very powerful and emotional opener which uses plucked strings to effectively paint a desolate soundscape. The lead strings roll on, as the soundscape subtly varies while lingering till the end setting up the second track which delves deep into breakbeat experimental territories. The sound created is reminiscent to an irregular heartbeat as the percussion line drops, while the pads decimate over the entire piece. A minimal but profound treatment is laid on the track in terms of modulation effects and panning which seamlessly correlates the meticulous drama hidden within the track.
Manic depressive, but very meditative, To What End traps you in limbo for its duration of five and a half minutes. Utilising an aggressive bass line and sundering repetitive pads, the track finds its roots within the minimal ambient sub-genre. Pseudomorphs encapsulate listeners in a sound that's unfamiliar and yet immediate, featuring a drum line that is broken up and dissonant which feels like a slap-you-in-the-face type of affair. Noise samples, and an incessant percussion line fight over their individual spaces on the spectrum presenting a militant vibe that lacks organisation and offers sporadic inserts resembling more of a guerrilla sounding outfit.
Eerie field recordings take the lead on 10279-60-4. The track begins with a single note bass line creating a simple groove before a cosmic wind instrument takes over and wraps the listener in a warm ambient blanket. We make our way towards the March Of The Danaides, the daughters of Danus - a character in Greek mythology. These young ladies on FRKTL’s piece sound angry and are on a rampage, or so it seems from the point of view of the listener. The track picks up with a frowning, acidic bass line and broken up drums that sound carefully constructed. The vocals are sublime, transposed and cleared up between the sections. The track is otherworldly and makes us wonder if this is what khabt sounds like in Greek mythology. If so, then bring on the history books.Sarah Badr appears to be fascinated with ancient Greek mythology which is why it's no surprise that a lesson in Akkadian Law is up next. The straight forward composition introduces all the elements right from the start, as Badr’s uplifting vocals resonate over top the soundscape constructed. Delayed vocal samples gallivant around the piece with sporadic claps creating different variations unexpectedly. Zero Point Field is one of the most incandescent tracks on the album, even though it rarely evolves, the track earns its light from hypnotism, induced on the listener in the most subtle way. 72-48-0 Red can be summed up into two words, piano heaven. Keeping with the melancholic mood of the album the track utilises some very peculiar sounds like animal screeching with a beautiful piano lead reminiscent to a neo-classical trip through the jungle.
One of the highlights on the album is definitely Qualia I and II. The outstanding track starts off with Badr’s voice sounding as ethereal as any hymn. Her voice is haunting enough to fill up the tracks earlier sections. No bass is present in the first half of the track, but by the second half an arpeggiated acid bass emerges wrapping up the tracks low section of this emotional anomalous production.
Enheduanna is one giant swell of a pad played from the start to finish, while Requiem/Escape Sequence begins with a swelling pad only to lead to a drop of epic proportions which is truly experimental and very ethereal. However, wanting to provide more ear candy, Badr provides Null States (21st Century Desire) as a bonus track that will please many. Beginning with a synth lead and accompanied by Badr’s vocals over top a resonating pad, the track is reminiscent of a post-pop experimental electronica sound, which once again proves that Qualia is an album full of surprises that sound refreshingly new for a music scene in need of daring experimental musicians.