It’s always a breath of fresh air to chat with someone you worked together with from a past life (aka my early twenties). In 2018, I met a somewhat quiet, focused Karl El Sokhn. He was the first to show up at our early Saturday morning, self-funded shoot for my first music video. Though he was behind the cameras that day, the tables have turned. Karl introduced me to his new musical persona, Reckless Darling, just in time for his debut project, Thru The Front Door, released on 6/23.
I was blown away at the nostalgia his music brought me from just listening and it wasn’t until we fleshed it out over the phone that we immediately bonded over his Gypsy Jazz influence. Karl found Gypsy Jazz after being in a long-term music-ship with metalcore and deathcore through his teen and young adult years. I personally spent my childhood having Django Reinhardt’s Minor Swing rammed into the depths of my soul from my Gypsy Jazz Guitarist dad. Consequently, we laughed at our common ground. Everyone’s heard of jazz, but Gypsy Jazz heads are a bit more rare.
Thru The Front Door unfolds with a soundtrack quality to it, pulling us into scenes reminiscent of walking around cobblestone streets, paths that lead to underground, hidden saloons, smoke filled hideouts, and European nights. If it sounds oddly specific, just listen for yourself. Themes of wandering, getting lost, and getting found (if you’re lucky) directly correlate to Karl’s journey moving to the US from Lebanon. He spent 2 years in Miami before planting in Chicago. Just like getting lost in the real world, his music evokes adventure and chase however doesn’t shy away from longing and loneliness. “I think if you’re anchored well, you’re free to wander,” Karl shares, insightfully. He thinks he finally found his anchor and it’s music.
Cheshire Cat Moon, named after the iconic Alice in Wonderland cat who’s smile compares to a crescent moon, was inspired by a tune Karl loves: The Wheel by SOHN. The beginning almost feels like a trick, teasing us with glitching vocals before it drops us into a transformational push and pull between rock n roll and psychedelia.
Undefined features perfectly paired vocals from Kelly Garrity. A lovely middle ground for the project, Undefined, gives us a warm and soft space where we can sink into Garrity’s sultry vocals for a bit.
Meanwhile, in Transient, Karl sings in Arabic for the first time, sharing that Arabic music is often differentiated in its sorrowful vocals, hand percussion, high pitched metallic sounds, and moving a lot between notes on different scales. Karl’s decision to keep the lyrics written and sung in Arabic is conscious and intentional. He therefore hopes that this will invite non-Arabic speaking listeners to inquire further about the meaning behind the lyrics, perhaps ask for a translation.
The future for Reckless Darling includes film scores, teaching at Columbia College Chicago, collaborating on an Italian-Arabic tune with colleagues, and planning a live performance of Thru The Front Door with a “cast” of rotating musicians. With songs that so closely resemble a soundtrack, the live aspect has to be equally audacious. But this is a challenge Reckless Darling will conquer with all the confidence in my mind. His ability to directly translate his story into his music is undeniable and after listening to his first project, I think we can all look forward to wandering into Reckless Darling’s promising future discography.