Cold Specks counters hate with a perfect, smooth R&B paradise | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Cold Specks counters hate with a perfect, smooth R&B paradise 

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click to enlarge Cold Specks

Cold Specks

Norman Wong

Cold Specks’ Ladan Hussein (aka Al Spx) is one of a number of artists, among them FKA Twigs, Kelala, Dawn Richard, and Frank Ocean, who combine R&B and rock into uncategorizable pop—though her particular version of it has been characterized as “doom soul” or quirky indie soul in the past. The Somali-Canadian performer’s latest album, Fool’s Paradise, sounds less odd than her earlier material, in part because it’s so perfect. Hussein’s new arrangements are less fussy than before, their electronic elements seamlessly incorporated into a series of dreamy midtempo tunes worthy of Sadé, and also like Sadé, above it all floats Hussein’s marvelous, insinuating voice. The title track is particularly mesmerizing as she rhythmically lifts her sensuous alto up into a light falsetto, chanting “Kala garo naftaada iyo laftaada,” a Somali phrase that means “understand the difference between your bones and your soul.” Hussein has spoken about her Muslim identity, and being Muslim in post-Trump North America, and those themes flavor the album, especially its title track. Still, the music is anything but despairing—it’s confident, centered, even celebratory. Though it sounds very different, Fool's Paradise recalls the spirit of Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got in being an expression of faith in the face of hate.   v

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