Björk BjörkThe Crystalline Series (Omar Souleyman’s Versions)
ONE LITTLE INDIAN (1123tp12c, 12” + digital)
You can't say Björk has no courage. Any other pre-eminent contemporary pop figure who gets offered the possibility to work with Syrian folklore superstar Omar Souleyman would get the shakes just thinking about the oddness of the combination (not because of the challenge but because of what the fans would think of it). Not Björk: she unflinchingly encourages this kind of encounter. She picks up the phone, or sends an email, to get in touch with the man – who cuts a striking figure, with turban, mustache and sun glasses. Of all the surprises “Biophilia” can hold, the part signed by Omar Souleyman must be the most intriguing one: it's the clash between matter and anti-matter, between the hi-tech conceptual sophistication of the Icelandic artist and the lo-fi folkloric traditionalism of the Syrian musician. For starters, here are the three remixes Björk requested from Souleyman for the vinyls of “The Crystalline Series” - which not only clears all doubt on the pairing, they also take away the bad taste the first single (featuring the Serban Ghenea remixes) left behind.
I don't know if the professional sound originally comes from Souleyman or if it's thanks to post-production. But apart from the clean sound, what's astonishing is the way Omar Souleyman makes the three tracks his own ( “Crystalline”, “Tesla” and “Mawal”) and practically de-Björkifies them; leaving only some vocal parts - as if the songs were his all along and he were the one inviting the singer to collaborate - with her appearing only from time to time, as if not to be too much in the way. That's the case particularly during the seven mantra-like minutes of “ Tesla”, with a lot of oud and wedding keyboards and an insistent rhythm that could serve as music for a dervish dance. It’s also the case on “ Cristalline”, albeit not so up-tempo and with fewer rhythm changes. “ Mawal”, on the other hand, turns into an ambient bed with strings and gliding synths that sounds more like a prayer than like a Björk song. Simply brilliant.
Claude T. Hill
Crystalline (Omar Souleyman Remix)