By Liam Prost
CALGARY – Somalia was one of the seven seemingly arbitrarily chosen nations pointed out in the Dorito President’s so-called ‘Muslim Ban’ executive order, signed within days of his presidency. Beyond the pure political idiocy of the move and the profound racism underlying it, the pure malevolence struck the heart of communities of colour in America and beyond.
As a Somali-Canadian artist, Ladan Hussein, Al Spyx, or Cold Specks as she is known on stage and record, recounts and re-enacts the oscillation and separation innate in a cultural moment defined by alienation and anomie.
On Arts & Crafts records, Cold Specks has released her third cavernous musical exorcism in Fools Paradise. Like her two previous releases, it centres around Hussein’s vocal brilliance with warm instrumentals, leaning on slinky keys and synths with rolling drums and beats. It’s decidedly less aggressive and more melancholy than Neuroplasticity (2014), with a graceful and poised air. Trip-hop and R&B influences dominate a record full of strongly-felt longing and separation.
“Thematically and lyrically, some songs deal with my identity as a black Muslim woman in a crumbling world,” explains Hussein. “However, there are also broken love songs.”
Much of the power in her lyrics comes from the bridging of ideas. “Ancient Habits” speaks to the commonality of emotional experience through time and culture, as well as how these things are framed differently through culture. “All you believe never was what it seems,” she sings over an oscillating synth.
With the completion of the record and the catharsis therein, Hussein also speaks to a sense of healing. “I needed to detach and disconnect and nurture my soul in a time where I felt as though everything was falling apart. It certainly was a healing process.”
Though universally praised, Hussein has never been one to dwell on her reviews, “I don’t care about responses. It’s not something I ever analyze. I just make the best music I can possibly make.”
While touring to promote Fools Paradise, she refers to the process as both “wonderful and long,” but adds, “It’s been a delight to see endless cities and perform these new songs.”
Cold Specks performs November 22 at Commonwealth Bar and Stage (Calgary), November 23 at the Needle Vinyl Tavern (Edmonton), November 24 at The Exchange (Regina), and November 25 at The Good Will (Winnipeg).Cold Specks, Commonwealth Bar and Stage, Needle Vinyl Tavern, The Exchange, The Good Will