Alexandrian jazz duo Earlobe just dropped their first EP, self-titled ‘Earlobe’, introducing listeners to an improvisational journey of sound and melody. Released on Cairo-based label ‘Memphis Records’, the EP consists of seven tracks narrating a sonic story of Alexandria’s seaside streets.
Jazzy horns, soulful percussion and tidal waves of synth wash over the listener in a tenuous harmony. Whether it’s the tremulous swell of ‘Into the Night’ or the sincerity of ‘Feen’, the artists explore the dimensions of sound in a playful way that, while not harmonious in the traditional sense, is seamless in its composition and its intent.
Sound in all its diverse forms is the playground in which trumpeter Muhammad Barakat and saxophonist Hossam El-Din play, combining their shared expertise in keys, bass and percussion. With the artistic collaboration of Shahd Mekkawy (vocals), Mariam Tarek (cello), Tarek Hussain (keyboard), and Hisham Atta’allah (mix master), the duo express a true passion for jazz and for the probing, inventive spirit the genre has always represented.
The EP opens with ‘Intro’ and somehow you can just hear the sea: the fluttering drone of the alto-sax caught in the cacophonous swell of a digital squall. Here the duo are introducing us to the essence of the EP. “The main influence is the urban life in Alexandria and the streets, which reflect a disturbing, gritty yet peaceful and beautiful environment, and the loss of a very dear friend to us, hence the balance between distorted sounds and beautiful harmonies throughout the album,” the duo behind Earlobe tell SceneNoise.
‘Into the Night’ is where the story properly begins, a descent into dreaming. The same alto sax rides distinctly lo-fi tides, exploring a host of musical influences. Earlobe cites Charles Davis and Theosolonius Monk as their jazz flagbears, while looking to genre bending raconteurs such as J Dilla and Madvillian to shake things up. ‘Into the Night’ is funky with its delicious synth reverbs and dreamy brass. By the middle of the track, the dreamy improvisation is punctuated by the trill of what can only be described as an alarm, setting an alternate rhythm that wakes us from night time reveries.
Earlobe is able to tell a story with no words at all; in ‘Love Glands’ you can feel the heartbeat, the blood pumping throughout the track. The tender crooning of ‘Feen’, sung by Shahd Mekkawy, is the album's only lyrical track. The song speaks of nostalgic longing for times gone by.
The album is a soft symphony: each track is an experimentation of expressive restraint, never hollow and somehow fresh, like the seabreeze along the streets of Alexandria.