In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
For a guy who’s been recording for about 20 years, it’s strange that Omar Souleyman is only breaking into the indie mainstream now. That probably has something to do with the fact that the Syrian artist’s music wasn’t really widely available outside his home country until sometime in the past few years, but now that Souleyman’s songs and live sets have gotten the attention of music-savvy outlets like The Fader, Pitchfork, and Stereogum, the middle-aged man with a mustache is bringing his electro-world jams to the masses for the first time.
Sort of. Souleyman released Wenu Wenu this fall, and while it’s ostensibly his first commercially released studio album, about 500 different tapes of his live and studio work are available in the Middle East. (According to FRoots, about 80 percent of those cassettes are dubs of performances he’s done at weddings.)
Still, Wenu Wenu is definitely shinier than anything the public has heard from Souleyman before, something that makes a lot of sense considering the record was produced by Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden at a studio in Brooklyn. No track on the record exemplifies that sheen better than lead single “Warni Warni,” which is sharp, refined, and sounds positively hypnotic on a nice pair of headphones. Some listeners might have to warm up to sideman Rizan Sa’id’s droning synthetic saz, but once you’re grooving on the tight mélange of synths and Souleyman’s vocals, you could fall wholeheartedly down the rabbit hole that is Souleyman’s extensive catalog.