Jawad Nawfal, aka Munma, is in the spotlight with two transcendent releases for Ruptured Records: one album on modular, and one in an all-star trio along with Sharif Sehnaoui and Jad Atoui. This is don’t-miss music to lose yourself in, from Lebanon’s exceptional, tight-knit improvisational scene.

Jawad’s music is at the heart of the Ruptured Records story; 15 years ago, Jawad was one of the first artists to be released by his brother Ziad on the label. He’s kept playing, but we haven’t gotten a proper release since 2016; now, he returns to the label in digital and cassette form. Ruptured made the leap from Beirut to Canada in 2021, but continues its series of tape releases in its adoptive home. It remains interwoven with the ever-active Lebanese musical community (both back home and in the diaspora).

These releases are both easy early favorites for 2024 – nuanced and emotionally intimate, both the all-modular solo outing and the modular/bass/guitar trio. And it makes sense to listen to the two together to get a full-spectrum impression of Jawad’s musicianship and ear.

For the Munma solo release Transient Organ, you get plenty of deep, downtempo ambient, beginning with the slowly pulsing warmth of “Quicksilver.” Dark soundscapes and languid, gentle harmonies dominate the record, hanging and slowly receding like frozen morning breath in the frost. The live performance feeling is here even in the solo work, in expansive, organic gestures plucked over dense pads and bass. Caroline Tabet, who produced the ghostly, touching drawing/watercolor of the album, joins as a vocalist on two tracks to add some French. (I didn’t get the chance to ask about “Le Cou La Force” – neck strength? But it adds a reflective poetic element.) These all unfold in some deep melancholy – the titular track seeming to float off into a mournful reverie.

“Le Guarde Du Coeur” – keep of the heart – sounds almost like a film soundtrack, heavily shuffled groove stepping forward beneath dubbed-out, half-heard vocal samples, thick buzzes, and vibrating melodies. That was a particular favorite. “Midday Shoulder Surfing” breaks into a full, chilled downtempo number, but with unexpected phrase and metric touches. It’s all gorgeous and demands multiple listening because of all the subtle development tucked into the details. And our friend Cedrik Fermont of Syrphe gives the work the appropriate veneer in mastering, losing none of the spontaneity and liveness of the recording while preserving finely-tuned consistency for back-to-back listening.

Actually, even if it’s all too calm for you, you will love the dissonance of Modern Individual, the treo recording, though that one is no less detailed. Jawad swaps his electric bass for a modular as Jad Atoui takes up modular details; Sharif Sehnaoui joins on electric guitar.

I love the moody, rainy photo by Nour Raad of the cover, as that captures presumably the diaspora’s feelings about Canada but also the sense of this album—in that cloudbreak moment of spring rainfall, when a pungent hit of ozone hits your nose.

The trio sounds as integrated as the solo album, somehow, through that fuzz, guitar and bass sounds, and drones – as if all emanating from one great impossible modular rig. The electronics create a sense of a broadcast just partly tuned-in over disturbed FM frequencies – etude from a dying radio signal (see “Public Outburst,” for instance). Jad, Jawad, and Sharif play with the shared voice of close family members. Strings morph into percussion, as on the opening “Modern Individual.” “Shift The Basis Of Differentiation” peals in ringing full urgency, then retreats into fragmented chords and waves of tremolo and glissandi.

Speaking of Ruptured, maybe it’s not really CDM material so much as our soon-to-be-launched companion site Create Oud Music, but Younma Saba’s Wishah و​​​ِ​​​ش​​​ا​​​ح is heart-breakingly moving from its vocals and songwriting to its production in an album quietly dropped in December. (Fadi Tabbal, co-founder of Ruptured, recorded and mixed it at Beirut’s great studio Tunefork, as with various releases.)

You can catch more of Jawad on his own VV-VA label, which I’ve also covered before – for instance, this VV-VA VA (read that twice):

And then there’s this fantastic duo, recorded together in Achrafieh Beirut in 2020 by Jawad with Elyse Tabet (Elyse I’ve covered for her work on Beirut Synthesizer Center a couple of times):

Also, in the Rupturediverse, there’s the monthly Ruptured Music series to listen to. Last week, we had this mix by Mayssa Jallad, joining label boss Ziad. I’ve got a few of these mixes to listen to—just remember, music lovers, you’ll do so much better with human algorithms than machine ones. Enjoy.

Mayssa Jallad is a Beirut-based bilingual singer-songwriter, architectural researcher and teacher, born in 1990. Her work deals with the highly personal as well as the political, as with her first solo album “Marjaa: The Battle of the Hotels”, which explores the histories of urban battles that occurred before she was born, during the Lebanese Civil War, through a collaborative musical and architectural lens.
Guest link https://lnkfi.re/mayssa_jallad

And in Beirut next month, Sharif Sehnaoui I should say is also the mind behind the long-running Irtijal improvisation festival. Even as the country is under attack, that festival is moving forward in April:

This is music as endurance – but not music as escapism. Among others, I’ve noticed Jad Atoui has been organizing donation drives for those displaced and suffering during Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon, and other artists I know have been equally active. Concerts have been an opportunity to do that. (Artists from Lebanon were involved in solidarity events in Berlin with Morphine Raum just last weekend.) That’s particularly important given the fragmented availability of government support there (understatement for the day). For a country that is still recovering from its decades-spanning civil war, this kind of solidarity – spanning country and diaspora – is surely a sign of hope and strength. I hope, at the very least, we join and listen in good times and bad alike.