London musician, producer, DJ and broadcaster Nabihah Iqbal has returned with her wonderfully atmospheric ‘Dreamer.’
29 April 2023 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
Nabihah Iqbal returns with ‘DREAMER’, her long-awaited new album out 28th April 2023 on Ninja Tune. Five years on since the London-born artist, curator, broadcaster and lecturer’s debut ‘Weighing Of The Heart’ was released and two years in the making, ‘DREAMER’ is Nabihah’s rawest and most reflective work to date.
It arrives at a pivotal time for Nabihah who has made her prolific work rate look effortless with a resume as varied as her music having recently collaborated with artist Zhang Ding, been commissioned to compose music for the Turner Prize, collaborated with Wolfgang Tillmans as part of his Tate Modern exhibition and was recently involved in a group performance at the Barbican as part of its major Basquiat retrospective.
She has also contributed to Serpentine’s recent book ‘140 Artists’ ideas for Planet Earth’ and has given guest lectures at the Royal College of Art. In 2022 Nabihah was announced as a guest director for England’s largest multi-arts festival, Brighton Festival, in 2023, her “biggest, most challenging and exciting curatorial position” to date.
‘DREAMER’ see’s Nabihah reflect on her experiences during the early months of 2020, when her studio was burgled. All her work was lost, including her long-awaited album. Already suffering from a broken hand and a severe case of burnout, she felt helpless. While the forensic police looked for fingerprints in her studio, she received a call. It was her grandmother; her grandfather had suffered a brain haemorrhage. Nabihah got on a plane to Karachi, Pakistan the next day.
As the Covid-19 pandemic surged, Nabihah spent the global lockdown finding resilience amidst the turmoil.
“Going to Pakistan turned into a blessing in disguise,” she says. “It affected my perspective on music. At the time, being forcefully removed from the whole scenario of the burglary felt frustrating, but it was the best thing that could have happened.” Nabihah spent those months remembering why she made music in the first place. She went back to basics and bought an acoustic guitar and a harmonium.
“For the first time ever, I’ve made music where I’ve been more patient with it,” she says. “Normally, when you’re an electronic music producer, you go into the studio, switch your computer on and start working on Ableton or Logic and then build up from that. Whereas, I decided not to go near all that for ages, and I was also forced into this approach in a way, because of the studio burglary and then being in Pakistan, away from all my equipment. Instead, I had to let the ideas develop in my head.”
During those initial months in Pakistan, she continued her creative practice through her “herbalist sessions” where she learned about plants and herbal remedies from her grandparents, espousing her learnings to the world via Instagram.
Using broader concepts, ‘DREAMER’ is “more introspective, because it’s about things that I’ve been through over the last few years,” she says. The album is an intimate journey through snapshots and memories of Nabihah’s life. Exploring personal identity and grief through the soft-focus lens of melancholy, the album is not one specific sound.
Her left-field lo-fi aesthetic twirls itself throughout as she manages to skate between tracks without ever sounding disjointed. Back in the UK, she embarked on residencies in Scotland and Suffolk to finish the album where she switched off from the internet, discovering “all my emotions and feelings. I was so sad and unwell before that but hardly anybody knew.”
It is a wrenchingly intimate and sweetly playful project. There is a pronounced melancholy underpinning the album, but cracks of sunlight make their way out. Ultimately, ‘DREAMER’ signals a shift, elevating Nabihah’s work to new heights as she adds new colours to her palette.
Nabihah has hosted radio shows on NTS and BBC networks like Radio 1, 1Xtra, Asian Network, World Service and 6Music since 2013. Since her debut album was released on Ninja Tune in 2017, Nabihah has toured the world extensively as both a live act and DJ. Performance highlights include the V&A Museum, MoMA PS1 and SXSW as well as Glastonbury Festival, Warehouse Project, Printworks, Boiler Room, Worldwide Festival and Sonar.
released April 28, 2023
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Matthew Horton , April 27th, 2023 07:23 The Quietus
The artist FKA-Throwing Shade returns on gauzy, hallucinatory form, finds Matthew Horton
It’s spring 2023 and we’re still caught in the shadow of Covid-19, struggling just to catch up with ourselves, get back to where we were. Nabihah Iqbal is the latest artist to re-emerge, finally, this second full-length album coming five years after debut Weighing Of The Heart, its completion thwarted by burglary, a mercy mission to family in Pakistan and a pandemic that kept her there for months. It’s a wonder it sounds so blissful. Perhaps the clue’s in the title.
First appearing a decade ago with the broken beats and icy Knife-like synth-pop of her alias Throwing Shade, Iqbal has reverted to her given name to embrace her heritage, but the switch also marked a change in style.
Where her Throwing Shade output was stark and clearly aimed at the club, the warm and trippy Weighing Of The Heart looked to the inner recesses of the mind, with woozy shoegaze rubbing up against spidery goth-rock, the occasional trance excursion the only concession to the dancefloor. It retained some of that earlier sharpness though. Dreamer is more diffuse, layered, fuzzed right up. Returning to Iqbal’s debut in hindsight is quite the shock – all its clean lines, airless spaces and crystalline notes almost too prim.
Extra time has bred extra confidence, and everything’s bigger. Dreamer is a surrender to wide, blurry, technicolour horizons, as unreal and otherworldly as its name suggests. At its basic level, the elements are simple – indie-pop, a little more shoegaze, a lot more trance – but extra waves of electronic wash and vocals so multitracked they’re choral make it labyrinthine enough to get lost in. The lush near-seven-minute intro ‘In Light’ – its 4AD guitars shimmering with reverb, Iqbal’s “In light, you wake” mantra ever-circling – pulls you in and keeps you enveloped.
Within, the benign tension is between sugar-sweet noise-pop and trance-house. The title track twinkles and swings, all gauzy and surfy, and the juddering ‘This World Couldn’t See Us’ is a delicate take on The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ (a song Iqbal’s covered live), but she’s frequently drawn to the rave. Remember Sunscreem? You can almost see the fractals and feel the whip of trustafarian dreads as ‘Sunflower’ wriggles along.
‘Gentle Heart’ and ‘Sky River’ go deeper still, the former pulsating around crispy snares, flickering hi-hat and wobbly 808 State synth-bass, the latter raising hands to the kind of anthemic rave riffs Faithless would shamelessly wheel out. There’s a united psychedelic purpose that lets the glow-stick wig-outs and dream-pop hang together, a rapturous disorientation.
Lyrically, Dreamer is as imprecise as its music is hallucinatory, which undeniably fits. Freedom, sunlight and love are the touchstones, sentiments and concepts that prevail. If that’s a bit ‘hello trees, hello sky’, Iqbal only really comes fully unstuck sighing lines like “Kiss the heavens/And the moonbeams” on hippie frippery ‘Sweet Emotion (lost in devotion)’. It’s beatless. Perhaps she’s too exposed. Subsumed in Dreamer’s tripped-out sunburst euphoria is where she truly shines.