Now and again I like to set myself a challenge and this week, the challenge is to review an album in two languages I don’t speak! Luckily, the album in question is Maia Barouh‘s Aida, an album full of bold sounds that really helped me to feel the music. AIDA means “between” in Japanese: between France and Japan, between the mainland and the islands, between the ancient and the modern. The character for the word is 間, a sun caught between two doors, and it also means “silence”.
Maia comes from a rich creative lineage (her father is French film composer Pierre Barouh) and she takes inspiration from the eccentric Tokyo underground scene, traditional folk singing, tribal grooves, French rap and electronic elements. All these come together to make a sonically and culturally blended album which fluctuates between roots and reinvention.
My favourite track is a track that uses the English language, opening with former PM Theresa May’s immortal words “Brexit Means Brexit”. ‘Exit’ then goes onto to ask if we want to “brexit with me” in a song full of danceability, threaded through with quieter moments of concentration. Other than her voice, Maia also uses the flute in her music, and this is very much to the fore here, to great effect.
Opening tracks ‘Tokyo Ondo‘ and ‘Hafu’ are full of bold, bass loaded soundscapes and rhythms. Unconventional beats and motifs that twist and turn and bring an experimental vibe to the album as a whole. You’re never quite sure what will happen from one beat to the next – Aida keeps you on your toes. A more cinematic, epic sound is explored on the surreal ‘Ringo‘, while there is plenty of danceability in ‘ChinXoise‘, ‘Taingo‘, ‘Nuage Nu‘ and ‘Take the Boat‘.
Whilst it may be an advantage to speak Japanese and French when listening to this album, it’s not necessary in order to enjoy it. Maia has created a beautiful sound that takes you on a ride that twists and turns into something exciting and exceptional.
Maia’s advice for aspiring artists is all about working with others:
“During creation, working with people is also great but I recommend sometimes to try to create as much as possible by yourself and be open to what is happening while you are doing it. Because one of the best things is accident and to be able to hear it. I used to always work with people and for my last album I tried to compose as much as possible by myself and even though it was hard, I could be inspired by some unexpected things happening while recording or editing and these little accidents became hints for my sound direction.”
Aida was released on 21 October. Get your copy here.
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