Photo Credits: Mariam Mekiwi
For the past half-decade or so, Cairo-based producer and multidisciplinary artist El Kontessa, AKA Fajr Soliman, has been building her sound of Shaaby-infused electronic music and bringing it to regional and international dance floors alike, including in Egypt, Tunis, Switzerland, Lebanon and Germany. The artist has also featured live sets on streaming platforms like Boiler Room and IRSH, as well as radio stations like NTS, Rinse FM and Movement Radio.
On July 28th, the Egyptian spinner finally released her debut album ’Nos Habet Caramel’, doubling down on her signature experimental style.
Released on Palestinian label ‘Bilna’es’, ‘Nos Habet Caramel’ consists of seven sample-heavy, beat-driven tracks with accelerating polyrhythms, ecstatic mahraganat percussion, fleeting vocals and synths and recordings from Cairo's soundscape.
Whether it’s the Jersey-infused beats of ‘Bingo’ or the deconstructivism of ‘Fassel’, the artist incorporates her inherited traditional sounds throughout all the album, seamlessly (and, at times, forcefully) blending genres and capturing the overstimulation of everyday life in Cairo.
‘Mesh Marshmellow’ felt like we were on a UFO, with echoing deep synths and futuristic sounds going hand-in-hand with grounding Arabic instruments to put us in a trance.
‘Ghaltet Meen’, meanwhile, has a glitchy-arcade essence throughout the song, all whilst sampling the hit of the same name by 80s Shaabi icon Shafi’a. The track is slow-tempoed at times, with reverberating synths and tabla hits driving you left and right. Drums go into full throttle at the mid-way mark, which should send listeners in a crazed-dance state.
‘Dofda3’ is a constant escalating swirl, accentuated by high-speed high-hats & Sagat, fleeting synths and the occasional animal sound. ‘Moka3bat’ is more on the industrial side, with high-speed kicks and a roster of sound effects.
The album outro ‘Asanser’ surprised us with a sample of Francis Lai’s 1970 classic “(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story”, and samples from an actual elevator. Half-way through the song goes into a sudden Breakcore burst which eventually dies down into an almost melancholic rest, with the very last notes being that of the elevator bell and its door being opened, finally arriving at our destination.
The thing is, it’s really hard to put any of the album’s tracks in a certain box. Once you think you have a hold of a song, El-Kontessa takes us in a whole other direction, incorporating all the elements that her heart desired making for a flavorful debut.
The album, coupled with the artwork illustrated by Soliman herself, is available on all streaming platforms.