The first listen of Wafia’s VIII EP is a beautiful experience, albeit one that feels relatively empty compared to her previous works. It’s all too easy to forget that we’ve had a wealth of time to get to know the Wafia that we’ve come to love, and each track of VIII are just as worthy of repetition.
There is a large sonic jump between the works on VIII and her last solo extended release, with XXIX existing largely in a pre-Ta-ku collaborative world. It’s easy to see on VIII the impact that Wafia’s extensive work, through collaborations and live performances, has been influenced by Ta-Ku, and while it may take a few moments to realise, it’s enabled her to grow so much as an artist. Through VIII we see Wafia challenge her own physical and spiritual values within a narrative that is familiar to all listeners. The tale of romance is one that has been told to us since childhood, yet Wafia manages to tell it in a refreshingly real manner, even if it exists to break our hearts.
In ‘Bodies’ Wafia’s lyricism plays out with metaphors of physical being. The previously released single touches on the emotional struggles faced by her family in the context of the current Syrian situation, is a deeply personal cut on the release. Like so many well written texts, it expands past her personal story within the context of the release. The dance worthy production breathes energy into the song and listener, with the synthetic beats soaring around the lyrics of self-realisation of societal expectations. It’s an impressive track, that is particularly penitent and powerful when once considers the world we live in today.
The most engaging element of VIII is that the six track release is so neatly contained around a moment that we all experience so many times, but only rarely in the truest form. The way in which the tracks plot through the heartbreak of a failed relationship and the development of a new one, delving not only into the aspects of the new partner, but rather reflecting deeply on the personal response to the new character and the way they impact on Wafia’s grounding is impressive to say the least. ‘Breathe’ is largely structured around an almost simplistic rhythm perfectly paired with soft dreamy lyrics repeating the simple line of “taking my breath away”. ‘Breathe’ to a degree, represents the physical grounding that can accompany meeting the ‘perfect’ person. As the percussive elements become more fleshed with additional effects Wafia delves further into her own core to challenge this new situation. Revealing that she’s not perfect, ‘Still searching somewhere in between clubs and churches’ teasing the spiritual questioning that comes with love. There is this revelation of unspoken societal expectations and the way in which reality works. While Church, or even family and community values may deem certain ways of meeting a person more honourable than others, the reality is love may be found on the club floor. ‘The Ending’ marks a heartbreaking reality that is derived from engaging in the debating of the heart and the expectations for too long. Paired with the harmonious vocals of Finneas, Wafia opens on the failed relationship. Contrasted to ’83 Days’ this is a feeling of mutual loss, and a plea for an answer that will never come. The discussion of religion and the lack of understanding of others is in stark contrast to our initial heartbreak. No longer is this a one-sided disappointment, but rather one where both Wafia and her lover are let down.
The story within VIII is nuanced, and it’s easy to take the soaring melodies and hypnotic production as their own elements and neglect the story that is being told across the EP. And to do so is a perfectly acceptable way to embrace the body of beautiful work – at this level the EP is ethereal. But, once the effort is taken to delve into the narrative, and the emotional bridges drawn by Wafia, so much more can be discovered. This is more than just a reflection on one individual’s story, but rather one that takes the same strokes as the development of near all relationships. Not all will feature the same course, but it seems all will at least experience each stage described across the six song EP at least once in their life. In VIII Wafia creates the journey of life condensed within one distinct storyline.