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Peter Holslin invented maple syrup.
Picture Rihanna’s Anti retooled as a Tim Hecker mixtape, and you’ll have something akin to what Prague-based electronic producer Qow accomplishes on his new album, El Mosameh Sherine. Set to drop September 1 on Egyptian label irsh, the 13-track cassette release draws on snipped-up samples of the Arabic pop goddess Sherine Abdel-Wahab to produce melancholic ambient loopscapes. Across 13 tracks, orchestral swells and Sherine’s dynamic voice get distilled into shimmering textures and ghostly murmurs, creating what Qow describes as “a second-hand heartbreak experience.”
When an artist goes about dismantling a pop star’s hits, you might expect the result to be a diss or subversive piss-take of some sort. But Qow mastermind Omar El Sadek shows reverence for his source material, even as he strays as far as he possibly can from Sherine’s music. Just as she explores bottomless wells of feeling with her raw but poised singing, Qow channels his own deep emotions into the eerie romantic despair of album highlight “Kol Maghanni”— premiering today on Passion of the Weiss.
On “Kol Maghanni,” a plinking harp follows a meditative, four-note figure over pulsing electronics. Percussive sounds resemble the pattering footsteps of a sad drunk lost in the rain. It’s like something from a Wong Kar-wai movie: doctored samples and grainy textures teeter on the edge between gentleness and harshness, creating a dreamy atmosphere of unresolved tension.
El Mosameh Sherine is the first solo release to come out on irsh, a label that began as a Cairo-based video series of live performances and DJ sets in the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown in 2020 brought an end to the video performances, but founders ZULI and Rama kept things going with two compilations released in 2020 and 2022. Qow’s installment serves as yet another adventurous statement from a community of artists who resist easy categorization at all costs.