French-Algerian R&B star Sabrina Bellaouel shares her anticipated debut album, Al Hadr, with previously unheard track, ‘Jah’, out now on seminal French label, InFiné. A volley of ringing 808’s and distinctive vocals, ‘Jah’ blends trap and alt-r&b with elements of trip-hop, as Sabrina weaves a moody tale of a dissolving romance between her and the driver of a muscle car. ‘Jah’ follows recent singles ‘Trust’ and ‘Eclipse’, supported by Crack, DJ Mag, enfnts terribles, Wonderland and more.
Her third release on InFiné – following acclaimed EP’s We Don’t Need To Be Enemies and Libra – the French-Algerian producer and vocalist’s unique style of electronic R&B blossoms with Al Hadr, a 13-track album featuring collaborations with dance producer Basile3, experimental club DJ and writer Crystallmess, jazz musician Monomite and pop singer Bonnie Banane, among others.
On Al Hadr — which translates from Arabic as “the present time” — Bellaouel is the most vulnerable she’s ever been on record. Classic neo-soul and silken R&B blend with club electronics. Tender harmonies are sung and rhymes are spoken in English, French and Arabic, exploring love, faith and identity. Samples of drum machines are the backbone for wisps of woodwind, strings, keys and environmental ‘found sounds’, including Bellaouel’s own live recordings.
Though written and recorded over a period of several years, the songs of Al Hadr mirror Bellaouel’s contemporary self. “I’m in a very strange time and space right now,” Bellaouel confesses. “I feel like I’m on the verge of something bigger than me that I can’t control, but the album has allowed me to release all of this emotional turmoil. I’m like a warrior, dirtied and wounded, leaving battle to find a peaceful field ahead.”
Structurally, Al Hadr draws from low-slung hip-hop production techniques, with soul-inspired loops creating hypnotic repetitions. “J Dilla once used a metal chain to build a snare sound,” she says, of these rhythmic inspirations, “and the weight of the chain meant that it hit the mark offbeat. I love ‘accidents’ like this in production, so I like to record in my own, close environment; to find happy accidents.”
A major element of Al Hadr is the language of faith and spirituality as self-love. As Bellaouel’s grown older, astrology has become part of these connections, too. “Astrology is the mathematics of God,” she says. “It brightens my artistic vision and is a key to unlocking my character.” Astrology inspired her 2020 EP, Libra. It’s named after her star sign and is symbolic of “always trying to find balance between extremes and where nothing is invalid, even if it’s uncommon or difficult.”
On Al Hadr, Sabrina taps into myriad influences: from spirituality and astrology to club culture, romance, the body and self love. Sonically, it draws on her influences from Punk, Gospel and house music, to, Aliyaah, Sade and Timbaland, while also playing homage to her North African roots. Creating a balance between places, identities and sounds is a huge part of the charm of Al Hadr. As a true Libra, she’s finding a balance between honouring her roots and carving out her future.
Al Hadr is out now: https://idol-io.link/AlHadr