Project Seer: Under the Eye of Self-Surveillance [amongst other things]

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Sima Itayim (a.k.a. Project Seer) has been one of those up-and-comers in the Lebanese music scene that really lets her music do the talking. With such a soft tone of voice, it’s hard to put into words how dark and foreboding she makes it sound. It’s something about the way she bends her voice, writes her lyrics and uses atonality that is so profoundly unique, it truly makes me realize how scarce it is for me to find music that really takes me somewhere.

Under The Eye is Project Seer’s first single off her debut album Pearls Before Swine, which just like the title, is packed with symbolism and spiritual references that make you want to start opening whatever books she’s been reading. For example, upon hearing the first sentence in Under The Eye, “Like 1349, except it’s not my skin this time”, I knew there had to be an interesting historical reference, and Googling ‘1349’ led me to the Black Plague and some really horrible looking skin complexions.

With lyrics so mysterious, obscure, and just plain weird, it’s hard to fully grasp what she’s on about most of the time. So instead of this article being a bunch of disjointed Google references, I thought it would be better to ask her about her process and let her explain what I could not fully grasp. 

“It’s important to note that when I’m writing, it isn’t intended to be about one thing. It comes together naturally as a picture. I feel like that’s what some people misconstrue. They sometimes think it’s a goal I’m trying to execute throughout the song, or “something that happened to me,” but a lot of the time they’re mostly fragmented selves talking about certain feelings in more than one way. Most of the songs off this album are sets of indescribable and sometimes subconscious feelings represented by imagery and melody.”

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It’s easy to see that Sima’s a true artist in the sense of the word, delving deep into herself to explore those sides of ourselves that most of us are afraid to understand or ashamed to talk about. It’s easy to tell, not only from her lyrics, but also from the entire vibe of her records, from the melodies to the production. The main core of her music is about self-exploration. It takes a lot of self-awareness to go where she’s gone, and if one combines that with a brilliant sense of curiosity, a peculiar need to read, and a keen perception of spirituality, you get the person behind these words:

“The album’s title is a reference to Verse 7:6 in the canonical gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus says to his disciples, ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearl before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces’. This metaphor is reflected on personally throughout the album. This record is about willingly exposing your pearls—what is valuable to you—regardless of the risk of being taken advantage of. Ironically, along with the album being my own reflection of this metaphor, these songs are my pearls; I am releasing a piece of me, and I am aware of the risk that many may not appreciate it”.

After hearing this, I was happy to know my suspicions of her occult influences after watching the video were correct. Although, come to think of it, just the name Project Seer should have been enough for me to realize that. The video is filled with weird occult references and has ‘Black Arts’ smeared all over it. It goes way deeper than that too, and I love that even though I have known Sima for a few years, I never knew this side of her. It just goes to show, she really is giving us her pearls. It should be, in my opinion, a reminder for everyone to tread carefully when handling someone else’s deepest emotions, which they mercilessly give us through their art.

“Fear, language, obsession, surveillance and craft are key in the album, and also in this song. It really is a debut in that sense, the sense that pearls are being exposed, and it’s a reminder that every artist is always taking a huge risk by exposing him or herself. That should never be forgotten, or reduced, in my opinion. It’s under the eye of scrutiny that I thrive, I can only make amends under my own eye.”

I feel it’s also important to say how well Sima collaborates with others as well, and how extremely versatile she is. She can often be found on stage with the Sima Itayem Quartet featuring the TV/film composer and guitarist Raed El-Khazen, who produced the album along with Didi Gutman. Didi is an Argentinian keyboardist Didi Gutman from Brazilian Girls, a really cool fresh-sounding electronica band with jazzy bossa-nova influences that was formed in New York. Both Didi and Raed also played on the album and helped Sima achieve that mesmerizing melancholy and gloom behind the record. As always, a band that plays well together, records well together, yet still, their connection really shines wherever they are.

Under The Eye’s official video has just been uploaded to Project Seer’s Facebook Page as a teaser for her forthcoming singles and album release. Keep an eye out to stay up-to-date on what’s to come.  

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