I am fascinated by the creative potential of “musical theology,” a pre-Enlightenment relic from the tradition in which J.S. Bach thrived. For Bach and his cronies, music theory was a direct extension and reflection of metaphysical and religious truths. The major chord, three notes in one sound, was the trinity; equal temperament (a practical approximation that detunes each note slightly from the mathematical ratios of just intonation) represented the sinning imperfections of humankind, a musical Fall from God-made purity.
His guest spot on ZULI’s “Kollu l-Joloud” brought his haunting voice to the forefront, and now Saudi Arabia’s mysterious MSYLMA has released his own debut record. Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum draws lyrically upon pre-Islamic and Quranic poetry, exploring themes of existential angst over a backdrop of abstract, grimy beats. It’s not a conventional listen in any sense, but even without being able to understand the Arabic lyrics, there’s something immediate and emotional about MSYLMA’s plaintive vocals. You can grab the album through Boomkat.