SMOKE & MIRRORS IS OUT NOW (SYRIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY)
(Chicago, IL) – Bassel & The Supernaturals are proud to announce the release of their third studio production, Smoke & Mirrors (LP). The Chicago based group tells the story of Bassel Almadani’s experience as a first generation Syrian-American using soulful melodies, funk inspired grooves, and captivating lyrics regarding love, loss, and the war in Syria. The significance of April 17 also holds another meaning for Bassel as it marks Syrian Independence Day. In the midst of a revolution that has left over 12,000,000 civilians in need of humanitarian relief, the timing of the band’s release combined with Bassel’s global advocacy efforts to support the sustainability of immigrants & refugees reinforce a message of resilience and hope for their eventual independence.
Bassel & The Supernaturals broke out with their 2017 debut album Elements, which earned them critical praise from Noisey, Huffington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Now This, PRI The World, Paste, and many others. The album also led to their involvement in the nationally-acclaimed SXSW 2017 showcase ‘ContraBanned: #MusicUnites’ featuring artists from the diaspora of countries targeted by the travel ban. The momentum for the band continued by inking a digital distribution deal with Six Degrees Records, one of the most prominent imprints for international music. The band has also been touring heavily, with over 300 performances since 2016 on stages including SXSW, The John F. Kennedy Center, Summerfest, and Millennium Park. They have also supported many internationally touring artists such as Youssou N’Dour, Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, Emancipator, The Dandy Warhols, and Sinkane. The group works closely with organizations on events and residencies that raise awareness and promote the sustainability of immigrants and refugees . This caught the attention of ArcArtists, who specializes in booking multi-faceted events with arts presenters across the world.
Life on the road is not always what it seems. Bassel explains, “Smoke & Mirrors is inspired by the false glamour that surrounds touring artists. We’ve played over 300 shows across North America since 2016 — from packed theaters to clubs where the soundcheck had more fans than the 4-hour set that followed. We’ve made friends with countless pets, couches, and floors. We’ve also lost close friends and family along the way. Music brought us together, and creates infinite meaning in our lives — but it doesn’t always cover rent.” He adds, “As social and cultural leaders, artists are expected to demonstrate strength and persistence in the wake of the challenges associated with working in the entertainment industry. Battles with mental and physical health tend to fall to the wayside along the way, using “the grind” and other coping mechanisms to push through the darkness.”
The nine tracks on the album engineered by GRAMMY-nominated Jeff Breakey and produced by the band’s guitarist Brandon Hunt strike a fine balance between up-tempo, energized funk and downtempo, melodically rich soul, while keeping it all cohesive. The 12” vinyl record reflects this contrast between side A to side B. On side A, the up-tempo of “Calculated Love” kicks off the album as a groove-packed anthem celebrating the raw and sometimes ordinary version of love that is typically left out of television and film. “Stepping Back In Time,” the second single released from the album is an energized protest track that was featured on Spotify’s All Funked Up playlist, driving over 200,000 streams since its debut. “Aleppo” is the third single that dropped, an uplifting disco & funk inspired track celebrating the heritage of the oldest continuously civilized city on the Earth. Bassel sings about his family’s city in Arabic for the first time, and the lyrics were prepared with his father’s help during a phone conversation that can be heard subtly in the mix at its beginning. Traditional “tarab” style vocals follow to close out the track courtesy of Arab-American vocalist Ashukur. The title track “Smoke” dismantles the myth of glamour often surrounding touring artists. The music video will be released on March 6, 2020.
Side B dives in with “Skipping Heartbeats,” showcasing the soulful R&B styles of the band. This song looks at the frontman’s journey into marriage and his persistence in “weathering the storm” through cultural differences and life changing tragedies. The tempest in “Skipping Heartbeats” flows into a full immersion into the water on “Relay,” where the singer relives his adolescent experience as a competitive swimmer. “Black Water” acts as a powerful follow up – a cinematic, dark ballad based on a dream where Bassel visits Aleppo and confronts the infamous Queiq River behind his grandmother’s home. Smoke & Mirrors closes with “Mistakes,” an open admission of self-deprecation and substance use as a coping mechanism through anxiety and depression.
What makes this release so special to Bassel & The Supernaturals is its honesty. Bassel details, “the approach on this record is very direct – from screaming ‘fuck your wall’ to opening up about substance use acting as a crutch for many of us. We’ve seen so many friends and family members impacted by drug abuse and mental illness, and it’s a taboo subject for most of us. Especially as one who identifies himself as Muslim and Arab-American, it’s something I’ve skated around in the past. I’ve learned to embrace who I am and my shortcomings, and I’ll do whatever I can to create safe spaces for others to do the same.” He concludes, “We explored a lot of territory on this album, yet it feels like our most authentic recording to date.”
Album pre-orders launch on March 6 with 20% of the proceeds being donated to support Karam Foundation’s mission to build a better future for Syrians.