Sayed Sabrina – Thou Art That

Sayed Sabrina’s newest album “Thou Art That” reveals her on the cover piece as a conduit catching any surrounding colour. Sequin braced hands pray in a ragged tinfoil crown for a concrete reflection, whilst surrounded by grey, no matter the phase of matter. She grew up around music and as such, the name of the album echoes the overlap between the artist as the medium or conduit, and art itself being a piece of the artist. Throughout the 12 song journey, a low-key ominously witchy personal aesthetic carries on a reminder of music’s fluidity. As tracks weave between Blues, Jazz, Rock, Funk, Soul, and Pop, the album yet again proves genres are out of the window in contemporary music as long as one’s character utilises them, like colours, to coherently define the full painting – the full person.

The Californian singer stated in an interview about the album that music, to her, was a medium in which she got a naturally felt structure, which would aid her in expressing her thoughts accurately and in accord with her emotions. To put such a reflective project together and to assign precise musicality to personal feelings, Sayed Sabrina had some high caliber musicians at her disposal, with the likes of Bobby Watson (Rufus, Michael Jackson), Sarah Morrow (Dr. John, Ray Charles), and Gary Herbig (Elvis, Tower of Power) providing a special touch to the scores.

At the onset of her career in the 80s, she was a part of the L.A. Punk-rock scene, and she still carries in her music some of the Hollywood-streets vibes – sun-drenched, and optimistic, but constantly a bit down and overwhelmed by the ever-present shade. Light and darkness form a balance for the whole picture of an emotion-driven pedestrian in a city of stars. Sayed Sabrina doesn’t hide how she’s fueled energy by her surroundings. She invokes how in a concrete drought of a city, where time to breathe drowned in glamour, emotions are roused quickly by even the faintest of impulses. She channels personal misgivings and victories of a city dweller, and through music amplifies their universal stories of minute surprises and disappointments, as well as glossing over personal deliberations of topics which should have been much too large for any individual to navigate.

Hollywood, and by extension Los Angeles, is one of the formative aesthetics for contemporary minds. It is where local visuals and sounds, presented in the lyrics and songs’ dressing, became universally common tropes, and their suggestive mood was sharpened into an artist’s weapon. Sayed Sabrina’s lyrics are conversational and remind of how a movie would accentuate and elevate what could have easily been mundane, had corresponding feelings not been woken, in this case by her voice and themes making the most out of a varied score. Her music comes from where a moment’s instance drifts from close and relatable to detached and alien and back, depending on little but a momentary mood, usually induced by a previously inconspicuous, and possibly unrelated, an ingredient in the cocktail of life, to which one has to always adapt quickly to follow.

With a tinge of an unworldly sight, she feeds the listener building-blocks of society from its very roots – personal accounts of impersonally universal happenings. She calls to one’s abstractly positive sense of inclusion by participating in the ubiquitous, which usually fades into abstract or forgotten after the story is told and the coffee-break is over, but still leaves one with a feeling of fulfilment, of real human interaction, of the one with feelings for a change. In other words, what makes a difference and what helps one to hold it together when the world just wouldn’t stop happening. “Thou Art That” is baiting the listener to go for some vicarious soundbites of the relatable, fusing magic into accounts of the grounded. Squirming between disturbing and peaceful, “Thou Art That” captures what it is like to live and think in this age of pompous routines, where positive and negative qualities cling to each other and merge under close scrutinous looks which long for a chance to separate them.

Honza Luhan

Photography by Jessica Chortcoff