Nadine Khouri - The Salted Air (One Flash Records)

Instrumentally impressive if one-paced new set from Beirut-born, London based singer

Released Feb 3rd, 2017 via One Flash Records / By Norman Miller
Nadine Khouri - The Salted Air (One Flash Records) This new album from Beirut-born but now UK-based Nadine Khouri follows up 2010's A Song To The City EP and, way before that, 2005 album Cuts From The Inside. Here, she teams up with the excellent John Parish (PJ Harvey's long-time collaborator) as producer for an album recorded live in a Bristol basement.

Khouri allies vocal talent with instrumental versatility, here playing guitar, ukulele, piano and harmonium. She's accompanied by Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley, French drummer Jean-Marc Butty (PJ Harvey, Mick Harvey, Raincoats) and Parish.

And things start promisingly as Khouri's husky croon and almost spoken-word style of delivery sets out her stall over droning organ backing on the opening Thru You I Awaken, while I Ran Thru The Dark (To The Beat of my Heart) raises the bar with its mix of delicate acoustic guitar, Americana melancholy and Khouri's forceful lyric delivery.

As the album unfolds you can see why comparisons are being made with genres like dream-pop and moody film soundtrack music, plus specific name-checks for the likes of Stina Nordenstam and Hope Sandoval with the odd hint of Lana Del Rey quaver. Khouri adds a nod to her Arab roots on tracks like Broken Star, where Moroccan tar provides a percussive bedrock for Khouri’s languidly dreamy incantation.

The problem is monotony. What sounds intriguing for a few tracks begins to pall as it turns out that nearly every one of the 10 tracks ploughs a musical furrow where tempo and ambience don't shift enough – a problem that also afflicts the likes of previously-mentioned Stina Nordenstam.

There are some great moments, however. Broken Star, for example, somehow touches on some of the magic of both Mazzy Star and Patti Smith, with potent lyricism in lines like: “I prayed so hard my heart was a tattoo of light”.

Daybreak also gets over its mawkish beginnings to become an intriguing blend of marching drum percussion, atmospheric squeezebox and discordant vocals, while You Got A Fire (the first single from the album) is a beautifully melancholic slice of Americana-via-Beirut-and-Bristol. Jerusalem Blue has a simple beauty of a twangy piano-led country lament.

But other tracks drag badly. Shake It Like A Shaman is a trite offering intended as a tribute to the late Jeff Buckley, Catapult is broody without offering much point, while the title track is so languid it's comatose.

Khouri does have a fantastic voice and a style that deserves a wider audience – she just needs to find a couple of other gears to let her songs fly higher.