Album Review: Zaki Ibrahim – The Secret Life of Planets

Zaki Ibrahim has come a long way as an artist. From her serenading beginnings as an indie singer experimenting with various transient forms to making blockbuster-esque house jams and even starring and killing roles in art films. Yet her second studio album, released almost four years after her award-winning debut, feels like a stunning summary of her interests and experiences in communication her emotions through song.

Over 51 minutes, by way of 13 songs, Zaki Ibrahim unfolds the nexuses of her sound, which is a verdant landscape blending searching soul and rnb, celestial funk and warbly Kwaito and House vibes, as a cosmic trip through galaxies far and beyond, in search of life. She achieved this brilliantly by being earnest in her expression of vulnerability and bravery.

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Zaki Ibrahim, The Secret Life of Planets cover art.

The Secret Life of Planets, released independently, begins on an ambient note with an almost solemn intro where various muffled voiced sneak through what feels like an open space. The tape then bursts into life on track 3, Love Made Naked. The dance number is a nod to the sparkly funk era of the 80s with its glittery chords and warm baselines drizzled with Zaki strong vocal presence. She charges through the song, exuding an almost careless bravado as she speaks about the power of love to strip one down to their honest core. The song is  probably the best on the tape as it skews the overall sonic signature of the tape to one extremely.

Conversely, the rest of the album is balanced with a moody yet cinematic calm. Cut Loose and Galileo in particular see Zaki exhibit one of her strongest assets which is the sheer power of her voice. On the later, she creates a dreamscape to lament the inevitability of a withering love by stretching her notes over blankets of warm chords. Cold Feet, produced with long time producer ally, Allister Jordan is one for core Zaki fans with its indie rnb sound and abrasive upbeat kwaito-inspired funk. Surprisingly, the almost two-year-old cult classic, Do The Thing Right also finds its way onto the tape. For such a great song, it’s hard for it to sound old and does not take away from the overall aesthetic or theme of the album.

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Zaki Ibrahim via artist’s website.

On The Secret Life of Planets, Zaki Ibrahim seems to be furthering the thematic framework of her last release, ORBIT: A Postcoital Prequel, where she employed a cosmic lens to expand her point of view on human emotion. However, with this being a full length release, listeners are exposed to a broader perspective. The tape oozes with the warmth of analog sound, reflecting a gaze of years of experience, to express the brittle and sometimes stale nature of digital connections. It’s also matches with the masked introverted approach with which she renders her artistic process. As she is able detach herself from the music and focus on her life whilst being present.

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Zaki Ibrahim by Gillian Mapp

By using the leitmotif of space, the tape magnetizes listeners in through the promise of revealing mystery yet employs the everydayness of our emotions to paint a relatable cosmos of human emotions. It’s a warm cathartic album sprinkled with filling portions of bliss. Planets is a journey to the present starting from the future and the past at the same time. And Zaki Ibrahim, a specialist in blending realities is the perfect pilot for the trip.

Written by Hakeem Adam

Images by Gillian Mapp via artist’s website/facebook

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