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Land of Kush


Land of Kush - Against the Day

Against the Day
Constellation - 2009


Michael Panontin
Sam Shalabi has been a fixture on the Montreal avant-rock scene - surely one of the continent's most fecund - for some two decades now, contributing to or fronting the likes of Molasses, Detention, Nutsak, and of course the extended freak-outs of his own Shalabi Effect project. The sprawling Land of Kush ensemble, with nearly thirty musicians to its roster, was the fruit of a lengthy stay in Egypt back in 2006. Shalabi had previously explored his Arab roots on earlier efforts Osama in 2003 and more recently on the poppier Eid last year. The free form experiments here on Against the Day - a sort of chance meeting of Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and the early Red Crayola in the Sahara Desert - recall somewhat the classical orchestras of late Nasser-era Egypt.

After a particularly auspicious debut last June at that city's continually excellent Suoni Per Il Popolo festival, Shalabi hauled the lot of them into the studio, seemingly undaunted by the logistical nightmare of recording a throng of musicians wielding strings, horns, synthesizers and sundry percussive instruments. The result is an equally haunting, exhilarating, and at times taxing mix of free jazz, musique concrete and Middle Eastern sounds that will surprise no one already familiar with Shalabi's work. The opening title track gets the point across best, where a staccato drumbeat motors around a mass of spiraling horns, building to its final intense rush of synths and vocals. Totally awesome, this! Other tracks evoke the exotic textures of Arabia (the sidelong 'Bilocations') or delve into industrial experimentation ('The Light over the Ranges'). Like most of Shalabi's work, the pleasures are hit and miss, but the hits, hit hard, and that makes Against the Day worth a listen.
         


Link:

     Constellation


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