A unique figure in Chicago’s ever expanding “psych” scene, Muyassar Kurdi‘s music is an on-going collaborative project that often times takes the form of performance art. The band has an extensive list of contributors but has always revolved around Muyassar and her autoharp.
Her latest release, Beyond The Orchard, is a gorgeous collection of soundscapes that blur the lines between psychedelic, folk, and spirituality.
The opening track “White Porcelain” sets the mood for the album and prepares you for the journey you are about to embark on. “Fill Me Up” continues the experience, and brings with it a sense of wanting and lament.
The aptly titled instrumental track “Drone” serves as a nice transition into the second half of the album, which takes on a more psychedelic tone than the first two tracks. This is a turning point in the album, where the shorter glimpses into Muyassar’s mind are replaced with longer freeform jams.
“Dear Momma” is perhaps one of the best examples of Muyassar’s vocal abilities. Her heavenly chant helps fill the space left by the somewhat minimalist instrumentation and acts as an instrument itself. This track reminds me of some of PJ Harvey’s more brooding compositions and is definitely one of the album’s standouts.
Kurdi’s vocal style is not always abstract and dream-like. When you strip away some of the reverb and echo, her voice shines through the haze like a beacon. A track like “Don’t Want Your Love” presents more of a concrete structure in comparison to the rest of the album. The lyrics have an immediacy to them that prove she is not only a great vocalist, but an expressive and passionate songwriter.
The title track “Beyond The Orchard” closes out the 6-song album, and is probably the most expansive soundscape of the group. With the addition of a gentle drum beat, it is one of the few tracks that feature some form of percussion. The haunting organs are still there, but even more “effected” and dense, making this track a fitting climax to the album.
Beyond The Orchard is a powerful album that requires a receptive and patient listener. It’s not something to be put on at a party but to be treated as a meditative and personal listening experience instead. If you give it time, let it steep a bit, it will reveal itself slowly and become a pleasure to hear on a cold winter night.
Muyassar will be touring with Matthew Schneider (of Moon Bros.) on pedal-steel for her upcoming East coast and Midwestern dates. Check out the full schedule below and help fund the tour by picking up a digital download of the album via Bandcamp.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 1st – Milwaukee @ Quarters
February 2nd – Bloomington @ Bottom of the Hill (DIY)
February 3rd – Pittsburgh @ Garfield Arts
February 4th – Boston @ Obrien’s Pub
February 5th – Brooklyn @ Pianos
February 6th – Providence, RI @ Machines With Magnets
February 7th – Boston @ Lily Pad
February 8th – Brooklyn @ Panoply Performance Laboratory
February 9th – Philly @ Random Tea Room (afternoon show–singing traditional dittys and sipping tea)
February 9th – Philly @ Kung fu Neck Tie (in the eve)
February 10th – Cleveland, OH @ Mahall
February 11th – Columbus, OH @ Cafe Bourbon
February 12th – Chicago @ Burlington Bar
For more info on these dates be sure to visit the official tour page on Facebook.