Alif’s debut album Aynama-Rtama (Wherever It Falls) and Jerusalem In My Heart’s second album, Lau Mat, Lau Lau Lau Lau (If He Dies, If If If If If) have been received positive, not to say glowing, reviews. Here’s a round up.
On Lau Mat, Lau Lau Lau Lau:
Beginning with ‘Al Affaq, Lau Mat, Lau Lau Lau Lau Lau Lau (The Hypocrite, If He Dies, If If If If If If)’ a track built on closely-harmonising vocals which progressively become more synthesized, this is an album to give oneself over to, to get lost in. ‘A Granular Buzuk’ features Moumneh’s signature instrument prominently atop an Eno-esque swirling synth bed. It is stunning.
One reviewer makes the point that the album gets away “from the Buddha Bar sound that marred so many interpretations of Arabic music” insisting on “the sharp edges of cultural difference” instead of the soothing message that we are all the same.
The music is in turns pensive, angry and frenzied. While the lyrics are in Arabic, translations are available, referencing hope, betrayal and accusation, culminating in the timely question, “Oh, what’s the matter with you, Syria?” Such politics are hidden to the common Western listener, but expose veins of conflict in the Arab mindset. Not everyone is dangerous, but neither is everyone benign.
On Aynama-Rtama, and the juxtaposition of “tradition” and open-mindedness.
While rooted in various Arabic traditions, Alif’s music is also open-minded and fiercely contemporary, taking in everything from slinky, dub-infused grooves (Yalla Tnam) to hypnotically circling riffs (I Tiraf). Of particular note are Al-Khutba Al-Akhira, the muscular desert stomp-psych of which is incrementally obliterated by Louca’s gliding cosmic synth; and the climactic closing track Eish Jabkum Hon, in which Ghazaleh’s elegance and poise give way to a more fervent, ecstatic mode.
The reviwer also notes the importance of poetry in the music:
The lyrics, comprising poetry by Boulus, Mahmoud Darwish and Faiha Abdulhadi, as well as Ghazaleh’s own verse, are not only phonetically sumptuous to the uncomprehending Anglophone, but their translations reveal extra layers of impressionistic beauty, too.
The National review discusses the lyrics in more depth:
The album opens up with Hulako (Hulago), featuring a poem by Boulus. According to the band, it is the first time the poet’s work has been set to music, and it is also here that we find the source of the album’s title: “a sword untiring, its shadow, wherever it falls, begets a cloud of hungry vultures that circle the houses, where refugees see me in their nightmares among the ruins”