Aside from making wonderful music on his guitar, one of the reasons many are attracted to Maneli Jamal’s music is the story of his family’s journey. For his second album The Lamaj Movement, Maneli decided to tell that story through music.
One of the things that makes this work is that by default Maneli’s compositions tend to be more like tone poems than regular songs . So even if you’re not aware of the concept behind the album,you still get the feeling that there’s a story being told.
Album-opener “Awakening” is the perfect example of this, serving as an overture for both the four-movement suite it’s a part of and the album as a whole. A percussive intro with harmonics leads to melodious passages, peaceful moments, and a chordal climax with some surprising dissonances.
These dissonances are explored further on the second movement “Lamaj”, which starts off with a floating melody full of middle-eastern colors. Then the rhythm kicks in and things build to a powerful crescendo. I have to commend Maneli for his use of different sounds and attacks which add some real vitality to his music.
Things get really interesting with “On the Run,” which starts off with some pitchless tapping before the ominous music comes in. This one really made me feel like I was listening to a movie soundtrack. Stylistically, it also felt like a nod towards Maneli’s Italian label-mates, Stefano Barone and Sergio Altamura.
Other great tracks include the soulful ballad “Homespun” and the upbeat “Klingerstrasse.” My favorite is probably “Us Against Them” which begins with a slow, heartfelt intro, and then when you least expect it, settles on a wonderful groove. Maneli somehow manages to always keep the pulse going throughout, sometimes making me wonder how exactly he’s pulling it off.
Overall this is a great album, and the story and emotion behind it only make its impact stronger. It’s also a step up in every way from his debut album: not only is the recording quality noticeably improved, but Maneli is obviously evolving as a guitarist and composer.