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Mish Maoul

Natacha Atlas

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Album Review

Even when paying homage to the Moroccan music she grew up with, vocalist Natacha Atlas can't help but let the multicultural and modern seep in. With bossa nova, Western pop, and just a thin slice of electronica figuring into the mix, the "back to my roots" album Mish Maoul is a rich collection of music that doesn't sound decorated but natural coming from an artist who prides herself in being a musical nomad. Easy to believe a nomad's memories of her homeland would be foggy and sentimental, and easy to believe the modern nomad's soundtrack would sound something like this — only something like this because this is far and away Atlas' most personal album. Suitably, she seems totally in charge of its construction, making interesting production choices with the help of Temple of Sound, Timothy Whelan, and others. For someone who has worked with Transglobal Underground, Art of Trance, and Jah Wobble in the past, the restraint Atlas uses on the rhythmic and ritualistic "Hayati Inta" is surprising and creates an intoxicating tension with only a slight bit of electric guitar revealing this isn't a field recording. Minor bits of studio trickery decorate the otherwise earthy "Bathaddak," while the playful "Haram Aleyk" lazily strolls from organic to electronic and back again. Pulling out the stops are the Massive Attack-by-way-of-Bollywood "Lil Khowf" and the much more pop "Feen," which could be considered the album's lone stumble depending on your tolerance for sweet "You can do it!" songs. With only a Brazilian-flavored acoustic guitar supporting Atlas' entrancing voice and heartfelt delivery, "Yariet" brings the album to a soft, organic close and suddenly it becomes apparent that despite the electronics and genre blending heard previously, Atlas music isn't so much "otherworldly" now as "worldly" in the most eye-opening sense of the word.

Biography

Born: 20 March 1964 in Brussels, Belgium

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

North African and Arabian music is given a modern, dance-inspiring twist by Brussels-born and Washington, D.C.-based vocalist Natacha Atlas. A former singer for techno-pop band Transglobal Underground, and an occasional collaborator of Jah Wobble, Atlas has continued to explore the fusion of her musical roots with Western electronic dance music. While Option magazine explained, "[Atlas] has a beautiful voice, which sounds curiously like a blend between traditional Middle Eastern singers and Elizabeth...
Full bio
Mish Maoul, Natacha Atlas
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