New Internationalist

Everything Must Change

November 2006

Patterning programmed beats, scything guitars and the majestic curves of chanteuse Leïla Bounous’s Arabic vocals, there’s a fantastic flamboyance and verve about Orange Blossom’s début album, qualities that will earn comparisons with Ofra Haza, Natacha Atlas and – who knows? – perhaps Tricky in his studio wizardry.

None of this would be inaccurate. Everything Must Change is many things, including post-punk: you can even hear the swoops and thunders of late-period Siouxsie and the Banshees, to thrilling effect. More significantly, it’s also a self-heeded call to rip up any world music rule book and start again.

While Orange Blossom – a Parisian trio based around singer Bounous, classically trained violinist PJ Chabot and programmer Mexican Carlos Robles Arenas – aren’t novel in using the friction between musical cultures as a starting point, what’s stunning here is how they build their material. From the kick-off, ‘Maldito’ (Cursed), we’re in a territory that careers at breakneck speed around Bernard Herrmann corners and down James Brown chicanes. A tight string quartet whips up a tornado the while. If this isn’t enough, the drama’s ratcheted up on ‘Habibi’ (My Darling), a vehicle for Bounous and wild guitar, and the close beats of ‘Cheft El Khof’ (I’ve Seen Fear).

Everything Must Change, for all its big sounds – think James Bond in the desert – is a subtle thing, with softer touches too. Vocals and tinkly percussion shift ‘Blama’ into a sinuous mode and, a green plea for a better world, ‘Bendimina’ (My Heart Is Aching) ploughs a righteous dub groove. Well worth the trip.

Louise Gray

This column was published in the November 2006 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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