Covered In Salt and Lemon
Words and Photos by Mudar Al-Khufash
There is a sense of urgency in Pork, Thoom’s debut album. An all too well- known feeling of anxiety. Brain din if brain activities produced sounds. Echos of nervous thoughts, wanting to make sense of an estranged moment in time. Drilling construction noise muffled over with drums, singing coming from afar, like sirens luring ships to wreck, and from within, schizophrenic, breeding what sounds like auditory hallucinations. As she puts it: “I’m not an academic, I don’t have the vocabulary, but I can describe what I observe.” It is almost as if her music is a reflection of her many thoughts and observations. In a coined “therapy session,” Zeynab of Thoom divulges her ruminations on current affairs. Nirvana’s In Utero handpicked as background music. She sets the tone for the afternoon chat.
“At the same time, I also feel like everything is al- ways relating to the past, our imagination is just what we already know ” Zeynab adds to an earlier remark, whether there has been anything new since the mid- 90s. And how contemporary culture sounds and looks like a reference to a past era. “ When you use a guitar now, for example, it immediately sounds nostalgic. Old rock or something similar.” 'Shytan' is nostalgia at its best, starting with guitar strings, the song is slow-paced, lyrics --co-written with her mother via WhatsApp-- are barely recognizable, a haunting mumble that is espe- cially fitting the video scenery of the same song. Shot at her grandfather’s house in Beirut, where she sings to herself, holding a microphone, in an empty house, like a trapped ghost pacing from one room to another. The past, returning to that grounding place, where it feels familiar and comfortable. 'Shytan' is the first song pro- duced in this album, and the tempo the album adheres to. “I don’t relate to a lot of the music coming out now. Especially electronic-music, it makes me feel anxious and isolated. It feels like we live in the 80s, its excess, maximalism, the sounds are so designed, so produced. It’s like Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. It feels inhuman. It doesn’t feel rounded. It makes me feel disassociated from myself.” Disassociate angst, rebellious against the polished and the ultra-smooth, 'Pork' layers noise and arranges field recordings into melodies and rhythms similar to that of the factory song,
C L A T T E R,
T H U M P
WHACK, B A M!
N O W DANCE
“We are so obsessed with technology, posthumanism, and the future of technology. It alienates me, I can’t relate to it. I want to see other aesthetics, less cyborgy, less fashion, less porny. It’s not like I’m anti-technology, but I would like things to be rawer, more instinctual, less polished. It feels sometimes we are not in our bodies. Tech- nology has made us more disconnected from each other and ourselves. When I see people on the street, people that I know only from Instagram, it dehumanizes them. People became representatives of this image of a person I saw on my Insta feed. Not the other way around. The most intimate parts of ourselves, like sex, is capitalized on and made into a business that simulates unrealistic expectations, intimacy became so pornified. Even beauty standards are made to fit porn, like Kim K’s body, it’s an impossible body, you can’t have that body naturally. Big tits and big ass with a tiny waist, these proportions are all made for fucking. There must be people out there sharing similar views. I wanna make music for them.”
Preoccupied with the search for authenticity, and the real, and music depicting the present, the antidote is found in intuition, synthesizing melodies driven by im- pulse and uncanny coincidences. “ I know what I want and what I don’t want. At the moment, the stuff I’m doing is reduced to simple melodies, catchy, very pop structured. But I’m still exploring, I’ve been composing a lot and working with other musicians. I have the fundamental idea, and I try to play it out with a guitar player for example. When I sing, I usually don’t know what pitch I’m singing, but I know it sounds good to me, and if it doesn’t fit in some music theories, I don’t give a shit. It’s not that I don’t want to learn or be taught music, I just don’t think you need to. If you know a couple of chords, khalas, that is all you need. It’s about energy and synchronicity. I’m following my intuition. I think it’s the best thing you can do as an artist, I feel so free in that way. Maybe this is how you produce new sounds.”
Indeed, in hyper-capitalism, activities without monetary value have no space. Time to try out and to play is scarce. It must generate money, fast and with the least risk possible. For this task, established templates are favored, and is one of the most likely factors for the current lack of novelty.
It all feels familiar, a Deja Vu.
IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT
Firing synapses signal Zeynab to react swiftly to inspiration as it comes, before the window of opportunity closes. She sizes the moment at a purging speed, exorcising the tunes out of her. “ It all happens fast, making songs. It’s like a tunnel with a closing end. At first, you see it and you get inspired, so you intuitively put things together, I don’t overthink it, at some point, Khalas, I get tired, the inspiration runs out after 4-5 hours. So I learned, the first part of the process is to vomit everything out. Then you could pick up the pieces and choose what’s good and what is not. If I think of the end product at the beginning, I start to judge what I’m doing too much.”
In a captivating strike, her voice fills the room as she sings along to Eat to Taste, the 4th track on the album, and its second song released with a video clip.: “It’s about eating your lover... cannibalizing your lover” She emphasizes. ”It’s about how you could love someone so much that you jail them and imprison them with your love. You wanna eat them, you wanna keep them in your belly.” We all have been there at least once. We are all guilty of such love.” Some grew up in a healthy household, learned what a healthy relationship looks like, I can’t relate. I have to teach all that shit to myself. When you realize that you are the bad person, It’s hard to admit, “Oh shit, I’m the toxic one” (laughs). But that’s when you become better.”
THROUGH MY SWEATSHIRT
I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU
ALL THIS TIME
NEVER THOUGHT THIS DAY WOULD COME TO ME
YOU, YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL
WITHOUT YOUR FACE
I’M FALLING HARD FOR YOU
SINCE YOU CAME AND
TOOK ME AWAY
YOU LOOK SO CHEAP ON MY PLATE
COVERED IN SALT AND LEMON
COVERED IN SALT AND LEMON
COVERED IN SALT MAYONNAISE
Eat to Taste’s video clip tells a love story. The vignetted fairy tale begins in the bushes. Beau is a plastic toy on wheels, a bee with a cheery smile. Appearing from the horizon, their eyes lock, and It’s love at first sight for Zeynab. In flirtatious dance, a bright blue dress, and a disturbing hungry gaze, beau is hopeless to her seductive powers. Blinded by love, the bee lands right in her arms. She kisses it, she gets a taste of it, and the rest is salt and lemon, and mayonnaise. Hilarious in the nuances, the video is freakishly hooking.
When she is not in the bushes chasing bees, Zeynabis is blissfully trapped with iden- tical twins, Chuck and Ike Clateman. “In a way, I feel very trapped, each one of us feels very trapped, it feels like a cult at times, but we love it. We work all three together in a vibrating sphere. Sometimes we have some insane moments. Like once, I was singing this song that we learned together, it is like this choir “The hill of Zion yiiiieeelds” I was record- ing it with Chuck in Berlin, and then Ike text messages us from London “The hill of Zion yiiiieeelds”. I was like: “dude, were you just singing this?! ” and he’s like: “yeah.” Things like this happen constantly, that is why I am so grateful because it is hard to find people that you can have this kinda connection with. We are very compatible.” An entanglement of minds at a higher Raum, where space-time collapses, and where the laws of physics don’t apply anymore. A fertile ground for the magic to foster. “Thoom is the three of us, but it’s a project I started on my own. I was years before performing all over Chicago. I don’t like to do things alone though, and I like to trust people, to collaborate, and let things grow. Prok kinda grew between us. After it, we became a trio.”
Constellations like these are like a priceless treasure, but when a world with two moons become too magical, Youmna, Zeynab’s sister, holds the mirror in her face “ She grounds me, she reminds me of who I am, especially when you are in the diaspora, at times, you forget.”
With abstract electronics and vigorous attitude, Zeynab asserts her humanity, raw and inadequate: “I’m just a fucking human and I’m learning like everybody else.”