The Secret Life of Planets is Ibrahim’s second full-length release in a 12-year career, half of which was spent fervently gigging around Toronto’s R&B, rap, and house music scenes, before decamping for her fatherland in South Africa.
Ibrahim’s eclipsing talent has been tenaciously honed outside of the pressures of a homogenizing industry that would benefit from making her its star. Planets isn’t just a product of black American or South African music styles; it’s multiple identities make it distinctly Canadian. It’s the work of an optimist whose voice wasn’t silenced by the confines of an unimaginative industry; it’s expansive in effort, and by sheer existence.
“Cut Loose” follows a sultry loop and releases into rapturous, funky, wall-of-sound harmonies.
“Home” – A live recording by Resonate
Along the way to arriving at Planets, Ibrahim has gathered new methods, sounds, and communities, recombining old ideas to make something all her own. This analog/digital, past/future, sensory/tactical approach to music-making is her hallmark. On The Secret Life of Planets (a title that riffs on a kitschy 1979 Stevie Wonder album), she flexes this musical vision—helped by Toronto producers/instrumentalists Alister Johnson and Casey MQ—with singular focus and nuanced whimsy. Try, but it’s very difficult to pick a favorite patch of sound from the Planets’ 13 tracks, her best album to date.
Planets is less liturgical science fiction and more soulful and sublime, focusing on cosmos of human experience. Musically, she’s connecting a lineage of black styles across eras and oceans. Emotionally, she’s narrating a moment when time collapsed: her father’s death, followed four months later by the birth of her baby boy. Could life be more literal? Planets captures the giddy wonder that can come with immense despair. That moment when you raise your wet cheeks to the sun, our closest star and anchor, and find some peace in the immensity.
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