The Ancient Egyptians believed the purpose of love was to nourish the seeds of the divine within us all. Perhaps this is the influence behind Shaefri’s new EP, Cracks; there is certainly something tender and nourishing in this new offering by the mixed Irish-Egyptian electro-pop artist – and its atmospheric whispering does take on a touch of the divine.
Cracks, released via indie label, Off The Record/Believe Digital, comes on the back of the standalone success of three stunning singles; “Pixelate”, “Rabbit Hole” and “Monster”. The overall effect is an EP that possess a gentle strength and haunting simplicity in dealing with that most human of conditions: love.
“Pixelate”, the first single from the EP, is a dysfunctional love song. It’s not the rush of love or the warmth of love. In fact, like the rest of the EP it is the darker side of the heart that is exposed, with this song exploring themes of separation and individualism set to a minimalist clicking rhythm like the heartbeat awaiting judgement and the promise of eternal life free from the constraints of love.
“Rabbit Hole”, in contrast, deals with the pain of unrequited love with a sensitivity that makes it a song for lovers anyway. Shaefri’s vocals are insistent and feel like a truth for her, a catharsis almost. If you have ever felt the sting of unrequited love, this song will feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable as honest emotion chokes between each line.
“Rabbit Hole” then doesn’t try to be anything other than the feeling of frustration and regret when the fragile act of love is not returned.
“Monster” is a foot weary journey through the ego and the facing of the hidden demons that make us undeniably human. Shaefri hangs on the line “monster” each time, imbibing the shame and fear this figure creates for her in her mind, in all of our minds. Once again a minimalistic score plays out underneath Shaefri’s fierce vocal styling creating a tension that never quite resolves itself.
The two new tracks on the EP, “Give It All” and “Caroline”, continue the exploration of the darker side of love started by the first three singles. “Give It All” is a primal calling of chants and lingering vocals that build but never quite achieve the anger the words warrant.
Instead, the emotion is more desperate, pleading almost for the heart to be released – not with the strength of conviction witnessed in “Pixelate” – more vulnerable but ultimately affirming that love is a choice and sometimes you have to choose yourself, monster and all.
This idea that love is a choice culminates with “Caroline”. Shaefri reveals here a deep maturity and compassion as she deals with powerful themes such as substance abuse, self-harm and the feelings of impotency you get when love isn’t enough to protect someone from themselves. It is a mirror held up to the demon in “Monster” reflecting back to us our worst characteristics in those that we care for. A black mirror full of Cracks that finally let you see the light.
This is the shining brilliance of the EP, then. It plays with the idea of love – love for oneself and for others and the dance of attraction and reaction that these two create, like the spinning of magnets. What there is in terms of score is delicate, fragile but beautifully executed underscoring vocals that are unapologetic, affronting and ultimately affirmative that love can create the divine in us all. Shaefri’s Cracks can be heard on iTunes here; and Spotify, below:
Words by Leander Hobbs