The American underground multi-instrumentalist, Hanni El Khatib poses a modern blues sprite on his latest album, 'Savage Times'. Taking on multiple guises throughout the 19 track long record, Khatib doesn’t shy away from experimenting.
2016 saw Hanni blossom creatively, releasing a series of five 'Savage Times' EPs, which all are included on the record alongside a handful of new tracks. 'Savage Times' follows up Hanni’s critically acclaimed 'Moonlight', released in 2015.
Opening with ‘Baby’s Okay’, 'Savage Times' establish its stream of consciousness early on. Emerging with tangy guitars and raspy vocals, ‘Baby’s Okay’ brings forth Khatib’s distinctive vibe. His repetitive lyrics and circular structure can read off as lazy, however the refreshing rock and roll nature of his tunes saves the impression.
Daring to be both organic and heavily electronic, Hanni El Khatib have made a record that manage to surprise. Spreading out between genres, it can sometimes feel as though the San Francisco singer takes on too much. His raw and emotive vocals truly find their place on song like ‘Come Down’ and ‘Black Constellation’, bringing forth a sense of connectivity to the album. ‘Come Down’ also forth a sense of mystique with a slight seductive edge, giving momentum and making the tune stand out on the record.
The variations between the tracks gives the album as a whole a fragmented ambience. Ridden from any trace of a red line 'Savage Times' flourish with compelling contrasts and conflicting ideas. The pessimistic blues feel excels on tracks like ‘Gonna Die Alone’ and ‘No Way’, whereas ‘Paralyzed’ emphasise a funky jazz-esque sound.
Hanni El Khatib is best when he lets the blues grab hold, like on ‘Miracle’ where the stripped down instrumentation gives air for his lyrics to flow without the distractions that drench too many songs on 'Savage Times'.
As a whole, 'Savage Times' is a chaotic, yet interesting album. Khatib cease to create a momentum due to the sheer amount of material facing the listener on this record, however, he masters the contrasts and contradictions within his tunes with an astonishing balance between the sensuous melodic and the raw ugliness. Rounding off with bonkers track ‘Freak Freely’. The five minutes bass-laid tune includes voice-overs as well as odd rhythm segments and imploding instrumentals, just a bold enough closer for this journey of an album.
Words: Aurora Henni Krogh
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