In the six tumultuous years since Anouar Brahem’s last album the Tunisian has watched his homeland explode amid the hopes and horrors of the Arab Spring. This double-album for quartet and string orchestra is his response. In no sense programmatic, it is rather the considered musical thoughts of one who could not help being intensely moved as events unfolded.
Central to that response, inevitably, is his own oud: often dark and brooding, yet fired by a singular melodic imagination. The exceptional quartet includes a reunion with pianist Francois Couturier, plus Klaus Gesing (bass clarinet) and Bjorn Meyer (bass guitar). Meanwhile Brahem keeps the strings as sparse as a cold wind, with no hint of romance or lushness, the colour spectrum further narrowed by the absence of percussion. Yet running through the mysterious (and occasionally meandering) minimalism is a rare profundity, as though you can hear those six years distilled to essences; essences so quietly compelling as to slide this album to the forefront of the work of one of the finest artists of our time.