Just four months after the release of his last LP, the incomparably prolific Kareem Ali is back at it again with a twenty-six track cosmic head-turner. It’s an album that’s kaleidoscopic in its output, with a far-reaching blend of messages, influences and inspirations. It’s music that further showcases the artist’s versatility, with tracks ranging from club-ready house and techno to late-night electronic jazz, and from shuffling breakbeat to rapid-fire drum and bass. More importantly, Kareem continues to use his creativity to push for racial justice. Seamlessly woven into the album is a monologue that highlights the acuteness of racial inequality in a deeply personal way. Back in April, Resident Advisor labelled Kareem Ali as the “the breakout house music artist of the pandemic era”, but it’s now clear that he’s determined to ride that wave onto even bigger and brighter horizons.
Although Kareem’s early days of studying jazz at SUNY Purchase are over, they shouldn’t be disregarded. Jazz elements are interspersed across All These Moments in suave and inventive ways. The smooth, velvety keyboard tone that Kareem opts for in tracks like ‘Do You Love Me’ and ‘Negativity Is A Choice’ is a feature that emanates peacefulness. Kareem’s delicate vocals glide like distant whispers on the wind as steady house beats form the scaffolding beneath the groove up above. In other tracks, like ‘Insha’Allah’, Kareem masterfully showcases his skill as a trumpeter to great effect, echoing memories of jazz giants like Miles Davis. The trumpet becomes one of Kareem’s most powerful mouthpieces for fulfilling his desire of uplifting and inspiring the masses; sustained high notes send you skyrocketing into the stratosphere and fill you with a palpable sense of self-belief, especially when used in tandem with a Khutbah on ‘Abdul Hafeez’.
In other parts of the album you find yourself catapulted into the midst of a nightclub from a future dimension. ‘I Don’t Know Why’ is my favourite club-ready house track on the album. Shiny, glistening synth chords bounce, move and change in tone and texture through the use of filters which gradually slide in different directions. The beat is purposeful and directed, swinging the track forward whilst still being interesting and exploratory in its components. There’s an angelic quality to Kareem’s airy, featherlight vocals, which elevates the music onto an even higher plane.
‘Mom’s Interlude’ is a track that holds huge power. It’s a piece of artistry that reflects the massive scale of racial economic divides. A woman, presumably Kareem’s mother, speaks about how it felt to be Black and single in a wealthy, white-dominated neighbourhood. She recalls her experience of moving from the Bronx, a diverse but comparatively poorer and more dangerous area of New York, to Bedford, an area which, according to Wall Street Journal, has become “one of the richest communities in America.” The way she speaks, the calmness of her voice, coupled with the echoing synth in the background, makes you imagine the settings and events she describes in such vivid detail. Integrating socially-driven messages into music is not a new direction for Kareem, but a continuation of an earlier commitment. As explained in Rolling Stone, he “joins a lineage of artists like Parliament and Underground Resistance” in “a musical expression… often referred to as afro-futurism”: a cultural aesthetic that blends history, science-fiction and fantasy to explore Black Americans’ experiences and unify those from the Black diaspora with their African ancestry. As Kareem explains (Resident Advisor), “I want to bridge the gap between Black Africans and Black Americans. There’s such a disconnect… we have a lot in common.”
The sci-fi side to Kareem’s afro-futurism manifests itself in unpredictable ways. Tracks like ‘Nice Guys Finish First’ are time machines into earlier decades; double bass and piano make you feel as if you’ve gone through a portal into The Roaring Twenties. With ‘Trip to Mexico’, you’re flung into the 1960’s with Motown vocals and psychedelic guitar riffs. From a young age Kareem dreamt of becoming a rocket scientist, and his love for outer space continues to be the lifeblood of much of his music. Tracks like ‘Lonesome Space Drifter’ give you the same sensation of weightlessness as an astronaut in zero gravity. On ‘Telepathic (Skyface)’, the shuttle doors open in clouds of smoke with space-age, melancholic synth pads before the onset of a snapping rhythm. The drum and bass influence here is even more pronounced on tracks like ‘StarSeeker (SpaceTrek)’, where a fast-paced beat runs symbiotically alongside gently pulsating keys; the two bounce off each other in perfect harmony, and you feel like you’re floating. Later, an intricate wheel of synth arpeggios dances up and down the furthest extremities of the keyboard in gorgeous patterns. With ‘Hanifah’, Kareem similarly creates a bold contrast between intense, high-BPM rhythms and wispy synth improvisation, resulting in something that feels as other-worldly as Aphex Twin’s greatest creations.
All These Moments is a stunning album that’ll undoubtedly stand the test of time. Its depth and character makes it an LP that you can listen to again and again and never grow tired of. By the time you’re reading this, they’ll no doubt be more new material from Kareem that you’ll find stacked up on his Bandcamp; the speed at which he produces tracks is superhuman, and the man never misses. If extra-terrestrials ever make contact with earth, this is the music we should show them.
“All These Moments” is out now on CosmoFlux and can be purchased onBandcamp.
Tracklist: 1. Intro 2. Abdul Hafeez 3. Memories In Color (Omnisphere) 4. Compound Eye 5. Nice Guys Finish First 6. Darkest Light 7. Demo Melodies (Mumbling) 8. Do You Love Me? 9. Hanifah 10. The Storm Is Over Soon 11. Demo Melodies (Reprise) 12. Heaven On Earth 13. Hustle III (Tha World Is ‘Bout To End) 14. I Don’t Know Why 15. Mom’s Interlude 16. Insha’Allah 17. Kamilah’s Song 18. Lonesome Space Drifter 19. Electric Tears 20. Negativity Is A Choice 21. Inner Thoughts 22. Telepathic (Skyface) 23. Moving Forward 24. Trip To Mexico 25. StarSeeker (SpaceTrek) 26. All These Moments