A fresh take on music is hard to come by these days, but when music can genuinely surprise it’s usually because it harnesses sounds or styles that don’t appear too often in the musical scene in question. As an example of this, Paul Simon’s Graceland wowed fans with its sound that was heavily influenced by South African music. Had it not been for that initial breakthrough, Vampire Weekend, with their fondness for African music, might never have gotten the massive following they have now.
So it was nice to hear Vamoise’s debut EP, Another Critical Moment, thanks to its embrace of middle eastern sounds. The band is fronted by Najah Zaoudé, whose own wavering vocals may summon images of the desert. The band even has Eric Breton playing a darbuka, a djembe-like middle eastern drum. And it all sounds super smooth thanks to Jean-Sébastien Brault-Labbé, who both produced and co-arranged the album while also contributing drums, bass and guitar on some tracks.
The EP succeeds because the four songs each function as their open separate mood pieces. Over just about fifteen minutes, Another Critical Moment travels from dreamlike mystery to happiness to moodiness to melancholy.
Zaoudé’s keys also make the songs more a niche of their own. The EP opens with “Come With Me,” which will introduce listeners straight away to the keys and Zaoudé’s powerful voice. Eventually Phillipe Lachance’s acoustic guitar adds a distinct middle eastern flavour to the song, and there’s some nice trombone swells courtesy of Matthieu Van Vliet. The song itself feels like the soundtrack to an epic journey.
That feeling of mystery and grandiosity is sharply contrasted by “Wonderful,” a song which relies heavily on keys. It’s inexplicably happy and Zaoudé makes it known with her vocals. It’s a shorter song than the other three on the EP but it makes a lasting impression.
“Killer of Love” is the “moody” song of bunch, having an almost jazzy feel thanks to the prominent bass guitar in the song. It’s backed by swirling keys and goes very unexpectedly jammy as it goes on. The vocals are nice, as mentioned, but it’s also nice to take a little break and show what the instruments are capable of doing as well.
Finally it ends with the sparse “Undecided,” featuring little more than keys again. Though this time the music is much more sparing as Zaoudé sings lines like “Love the ground that I walk every day.”
Apparently the album title refers to the point when dreams come true. There are certainly a lot of dreams present in the melodies and lyrics, so it seems like the title fits it well.
Top Track: “Killer of Love”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)