Alif are a five-person musical collective, combining Oud, Buzuq, bass, keyboards and drums. Oh and poetic vocals as well of course. Aynama-Rtama displays their far-reaching sound to full effect, a highly-rhythmic flurry of Arab-origin sound. The music comes packaged with full English translations of lyrics and poems used. On Nawa Recordings.
7/10 Robin Staff review, 01 September 2015
Collecting lyrics by various poets (Iraqi-Assyrian poet Sargon Boulos, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet Faiha Abdul Hadi, and the band's vocalist Tamer Abu Ghazaleh) with the sounds of oud, buzuk and some darling keyboards, Alif have made one of the year’s most versatile sounding records, traversing folk only to rectify it with a fine dosage of off-kilter electro-pop. On ‘Aynama-Rtama’, Alif make no effort to hide their lack of genre discipline, opening the record on a skittering drumbeat that sounds like it’s jumping over hurdles. The band launch into a full on jam of buzuk and bass as the song continues, enveloping us in something of a dance cut, before cutting out for a wild solo free from reason.
The places this record goes are bold and often genuinely unexpected, with the auto-tuned hums of “Yalla Tnam” pulling into what feels like a psych influenced piece: keyboards groan out of context as drums play out an entirely different, halfway-Krautrock scenario. With vocals slyly and rarely interspersed, these songs can take on meditative and private atmospheres, with “Al-Juththa|” striking out primarily as a lounge jazz jam before climaxing, with straddling acoustic instruments, into something fraught and desperate. The way this record can stretch and switch up tone is phenomenal: it keeps abstracting into new ideas, echoing the warped but flourescent artwork that adorns proceedings.
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