Cold Specks grounds her new album in roots of identity
Ladan Hussein’s latest album, Fool’s Paradise, recounts a time that she delved deep into her Somali roots and found solace. Known on stage as Cold Specks, her musical evolution has shifted from a brand of doom soul into a sound of gentle self-discovery.
In the album’s title track, Hussein’s lush and ethereal voice speaks of a semi-mythical queen in Somali tradition named ‘Araweelo.’ Hussein chants a Somali idiom, “kala garo naftaada iyo laftaada,” translated as “understand the difference between your bones and your soul.” The song holds a hopeful and level-headed balance that translates into healing through self-discovery.
After touring her previous record Neuroplasticity for two years, Hussein realized she desperately needed to take a break and moved home to Toronto with her parents.
“I spent a lot of time with my father,” she says. “He began opening up to me in ways he didn’t used to when I was a teenager, and he told me about his life [in Mogadishu] in the ‘70s.”
While Hussein’s father was living in Somalia, he had many musician friends. During many of these nights at her parents’ house, she and her father would listen to collections of old VHS performance tapes published on YouTube from before the Somali Civil War.
“A lot of the recordings were lost in the [civil] war. Some of these videos are all we have and that’s how a lot of Somalis take in our music,” she says.
Although she didn’t realize it at the time, these videos heavily influenced Hussein. It’s recognizable in her new record, with changes in the softness of her singing voice.
“I started singing the way I used to sing when I started,” she says.
Spending this time with family helped Hussein decompress and subconsciously sort out the new direction she wanted to take.
Fool’s Paradise is also “a reflection of a crumbling world from the perspective of a black, Muslim woman,” she adds. “I suppose it’s my reaction to seeing my country on the news with all the dreadful narratives attached to it by people who don’t know anything about the country.”
Known for a darkness heard in the tone of her low vibrato, Hussein comes from a land of poets.
“All of our histories are passed down orally. I guess that’s why Somalis are naturally poetic people,” she says.
With a quirky sense of humour that balances humility with darkness. Cold Specks’ new album proves how strong she is as an artist and a person.
“A quarter-life crisis can only last for so long,” she laughs. “It closes a dreadful chapter.”
Thu., Nov. 23 (7 pm)
Cold Specks w/ guests
9910, $20 in advance