Karima Walker – Waking The Dreaming Body Album Review

Keeled Scales/ Ordinal Records – 2021

Arizona based Folk, drone and experimental artist Karima Walker returns after 4 years with the follow up to 2017’s magical Hands In Our Names. Walker originally began constructing this album in 2019 when she flew to New York to work with The Blow’s Melissa Dyne, however illness forced Walker back home and the pandemic ensured that travel wasn’t possible. Walker then began to finish the album in her makeshift home studio through various “messy Ableton sessions”. The result is an album that shifts and twirls through swaying ambient landscapes, intertwined with folk ballads that allow Walker’s poetry to blossom in the openness and freedom of this album. “Every morning feels like, waking the dreaming body” she sings on title track “Waking The Dreaming Body ” and this feeling of half consciousness is one that can be felt throughout this album.

The sound manipulation and design is perhaps the most revered aspect of this album, pulling together real world sounds and hazy synthesiser sounds to consistently create truly enticing, warming and sometimes uneasy soundscapes that you truly lose yourself in, fading between two worlds. The start of “Window I” opens with some hauntingly beautiful lo-fi piano, that would be a hip-hop artists dream to sample, the crusty layers and grained sound is so comforting and yet longingly distant. Then the latter half of the track perfectly blends the rolling of ambient sounds and wave noises, fused to create a hazy dreamlike surrounding that slowly fades in and out, just when you think the sound is gone it creeps back in for another roll. And on “Horizon, Harbor Resonance” the track diverts through so many layers and levels of different ambient sounds throughout its 13 minute run time that you’re not quite sure where you came from or where you’re going next, but in this fantasy world that Walker creates it somehow makes sense.

The composition of these tracks are created in two worlds, one where everything flows smoothly and the other where the disjointed is the flowing force that shifts these sounds from movement to movement. On “Window II” the harp plucks may not be as flowing or elegant as fellow contemporary ambient artist Mary Lattimore, but they serve as more of an erratic and glitchy surrounding that amplifies the dream like feeling that Walker sings of. Fluttering about the soundscape, being reversed and played forward in ever changing motion. Whereas closer “For Heddi” feels like the breath of fresh air in the early morning, as the dancing synth melody guides the song along, the deep bass swells take you into the real world with their almost meditative feel.

After being forced to stay at home whilst writing this album the real world of Walker’s surroundings began to play their part in the formation of these songs. She intertwines these within the poetry elements of songs like on opener “Reconstellated” she sings “Sonoran sky plays a movie, Draw a line to the stars inside of me, Write it down, tell your friends, I know where I am but I can’t tell where I started” referencing the desert in Arizona. Even through the poetry of these songs Walker is still as mystifying as ever; never giving clear ground to what’s real and what’s figment.

“Sitting still in the movement of not knowing, where you are, where you were and where you’re going” she sings on “Softer” over the gently plucked guitar movements and this statement perhaps sums up the journey this album takes you on. One things for certain however, this blissful journey that Walker sails you through is one of mystique and wonder and once it’s over, like a dream, you try to recall the details but all you can remember is the wonder you felt along the way.