Personnel: Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, Jérémie Regnier, Malena Szlam Salazar (vocals, harp, zurna, virginal, synthesizer, sequencer).
Founded by the Lebanese émigré Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, Jerusalem in My Heart define themselves as "contemporary Arabic and electronic music interwoven with 16mm film projections and light-based (de)constructions of space, exploring a relationship between music, visuals, projections, and audience." They have been an underground mainstay on Quebec's art scene since 2005. The group's intermittent performances range from solo appearances by Moumneh (a noted producer and engineer, and also an active participant in Beirut's experimental music scene) to "happenings" with over 35 participants. His collaborators on JIMH's debut album are French musician and producer Jérémie Regnier and Chilean visual artist and filmmaker Malena Szlam Salazar. Musically, Mo7it Al-Mo7it (an ASCII character text translation of an Arabic phrase meaning "Ocean of the Ocean") is an abstract yet beautiful affair. Opener "Koll Lil-Mali7ati Fi Al-Khimar Al-Aswadi" (Speak of the Woman in the Black Robe) is a completely re-imagined version of a Lebanese evergreen that became a hit for Sabah Fakhri in 1973. While the chant remains the same, it is surrounded by haunting synths and ambient effects. "3andalib Al-Furat" (Nightingale of the Euphrates) is a lengthy meditative instrumental, performed by buzuk (bouzouki), harp, and programmed bird sounds. On "3anzah Jarbanah" (Sick, Diseased Goat -- or literally, "Goat with Scabies"), sampled female-sounding chants with unintelligible lyrics, heavily treated by effects and reverb for three minutes before squalling amplified zurna, synths, and Moumneh's layered voices accompany in choir-like fashion. It's mesmerizing. "Ko7l El-3ein, 3emian El-3ein" (Eyeliner of the Eye, Blindness of the Eye) begins as an intense buzuk solo in digital layers, synth bass, echo, and rumbling keyboards. The final cut, "Amanem" (Lamentation) is a mirror image of the opener. Nearly nine minutes long, it commences with distorted nearly squelchy synth, electrified buzuk, and Moumneh's heavily treated wailing vocal, portraying grief, loneliness, and spiritual longing. The buzuk's intensity counters the droning vocal and modal synth. The vocal eventually gets stretched, pitch-adjusted lower, and made elastic, yet never loses its emotion. While no one can say how this translates from JIMH's live show, as a recording Mo7it Al-Mo7it is unlike anything else Western ears have likely heard before. It is compelling, confounding, and at times, deeply moving. ~ Thom Jurek