Out into the fragrant night with Nadine Khouri

Nadine3 Steve Gullick

Khouri had no real connection to the city before she moved there. She’d grown up learning French and about the literature, history, and geography of France at school, but she’d barely even passed through Marseille before, stopping only to change trains at the station. “Moving there was quite a surreal experience because it felt so familiar,” she says. “It was strange how quickly it felt like home to me.”

Settled into a new routine, Khouri found herself drawn back into thinking about the significance of moving from one chapter of our lives to another – chapters so distinct that they feel like other lives completely. “I was thinking about this itinerant life, which starts to feel like several lives in one lifetime,” she says. “I also wanted to go beyond my personal experience. I mean, it’s a common feeling in a lot of ways, the older you get. People use the expression ‘in another life’ in everyday parlance, but I was also thinking about life, or lives, beyond what is visible to us.”

Released by French label Talitres last November, Another Life is the outcome of those meditations. More weighty and direct than her 2017 debut The Salted Air, it’s an intensely intimate experience, all shadowplay and smoke. Though Khouri’s sultry alto is undeniably the star – her allusive, sometimes provocative phrasing lends the album’s nine nocturnal songs an air of mystery and wisdom – there’s power in the spacious production, too. Khouri and Parish have an easy, confident way of working together, and that shines through in the way these songs flicker and glow.

Take the standout single “Keep on Pushing These Walls”, for example. Khouri’s silken croon curls like incense smoke through warm night air, sending up a fragrant prayer of thanks. Inspired by a passage written by musician Lhasa de Sela in her book La Route Chante (The Road Sings), the song was written in gratitude to the late artist, who died incredibly young but left an indelible mark.

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