Cuts from the Inside
LIVE 'She writes about situations that resonate with an element of Beirut's youth, singing with a singular voice that can slide from velvet to gravel in one measure's time.' - Ramsay Short, The Daily Star 'The outstanding Nadine Khouri is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who effortlessly combines beautiful melodies with passion and emotion. A talented performer who deserves to be heard.' - Amanda Glyn, The Troubadour * * * CUTS FROM THE INSIDE 'Musically this makes for stunning listening. You need this.' - ROUGH TRADE SHOP (UK) 'Nadine Khouri's debut album is a very likeable mixture of styles that, although a wee bit commercial for us normally, hits the right spot on several occasions. Her vocals are delicious and really suit the varied musical elements.' - SMALLFISH RECORDS (UK) Review by Matt Adams: 'Recorded between Beirut, London, and New York, 'Cuts from the Inside' is, quite frankly, impossible to define. Brimming with influences (folk, rock, jazz, spoken word) it is the sound a young woman, floating between cities, in search of her voice. Although the CD is rooted in a tradition that is distinctly Western, Khouri's lyrics often revert back her place of origin (Beirut) transporting the listener into a space that is neither here nor there. In the song Bliss (also the name of a main street in Beirut) for instance, Khouri recounts the experience of riding in a beat-up 'service' (a communal taxi) on her way to meeting her loved one. The song's languid and jazzy rhythm section - provided by band members Monica Rodriguez (beat-boxing, drums) Jana Saleh (Rhodes) and Raed el Khazen (bass)- is distinctly New York, and yet also gives the impression of a car bopping along one of Beirut's potholed streets. Another reference to Khouri's hometown is the breathtaking Midnight Prayer. Undeniably one of the standout tracks on the album, the song opens with the sound of a frantic drumbeat, conveying a sense of urgency and excitement. With gorgeous sweeping vocals, Khouri depicts the remarkable events that followed Prime Minister Hariri's assassination in early 2005. 'Could you see the drapes/of red and white/floating like waves/across the concrete?' The spoken-word Wail (possibly a nod to Ginsberg's poem Howl?) is a visceral and highly visual poem about corruption, secret love, and post-war debauchery. The track's filmic quality is further emphasized by fellow Beiruti Saleh's sound-design, which includes the sound of cars honking, overheard conversations, and the adein. In her less context-specific songs, Khouri displays a remarkable knack for crafting simple, lush, catchy songs. The album's first track, Number One Boy, opens with a surf guitar and slips into a delicate dreamy number, calling to mind both Elliot Smith and Stina Nordenstam. The following track [Carmina] obliterates the opening track's gentle reverie with Khouri's frenetic acoustic pounding, inducing the terrorized listener into the other standout track on the album, Underground. In it, Khouri's raw voice soars above a simple finger-picked guitar and eerie atmospheric strings, ushering the listener into a secret universe, on the fringes of society. 'Come down my friends, my friends come down/Walk this way but make no sound/Cause we can't afford to be caught/We live in the darkness where it's hot.' The album's darkest track, All this Violence, which opens with electronic/sampled beat-boxing, is highly reminiscent of Radiohead in their Kid A phase. Musically, the song contains an unusual grouping of instruments (frame drum and melodica, alongside drums and distorted guitar) riffing on Khouri's Middle-Eastern sounding melody, which loops throughout the song. Finally, the closing track, What Of, sounds like a beautiful jazz improvisation with Khouri-Rodriguez-Saleh on guitar-piano-melodica, respectively. The song laments the failed relationship and communication breakdown between two individuals. This is probably the band at it's finest. Seemingly effortless, the song displays a perfect interplay between the three musicians. Elsewhere are the epic rock instrumental Butterfly (with Rodriguez filling main vocal duties) and the southern-drenched soul of Hey My Baby, which lift the album from it's overall blue tone. It is impossible to say whether Khouri will be celebrated or criticized for her diversity and eclecticism. On the whole, Cuts from the Inside is a generous, thoughtful, and honorable work- considering it was entirely self-produced by the twenty-four year old herself. It is with excitement that I wait to hear what she and her band members will do next.' - Matthew Adams.