Fatima Al Qadiri Credit: Photo by Lane Stewart

Music can instantly transport us to another time and place, but some artists sidestep the space-time continuum entirely—their work builds new worlds that straddle reality and imagination. On her third album, May’s Medieval Femme (Hyperdub), electronic artist Fatima Al Qadiri synthesizes music and poetry from a millennium apart into something immediately alluring and immersive.

Born in Senegal and based in Los Angeles, the Kuwaiti composer is known for conceptual art that challenges corrupt political power structures and norms surrounding sexuality and gender as well as drawing attention to our tendency to perceive one another—and sometimes ourselves—through warped lenses. Her 2012 EP Desert Strike looks at how playing the 1992 video game Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf as a child has affected her memories of living through the Gulf War in Kuwait, and her futuristic 2014 full-length debut, Asiatisch, indicts Western stereotyping and fetishization of East Asian people and cultures.

On Medieval Femme, Al Qadiri catapults antique elements—traditional Arabic instrumentation and melancholy medieval poetry written by Arabic women—into an ultramodern dreamlike abyss. The title track, which opens the album, blends somber vocals with dark, icy synth, then segues into “A Certain Concubine,” which moves into warmer terrain with electronic lutes that are briefly eclipsed by an extraterrestrial flourish overhead. In the album’s press materials, Al Qadiri uses the metaphor of an Islamic garden for these tracks, whose merging of old and new makes them feel like they’re suspended in time. Many of us have spent way too much time alone with our thoughts lately, which makes the airy, meditative space she creates feel like an escape—and like a place to rediscover the difference between fruitless worry and true contemplation.  v

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