Land Of Kush
Against The Day
CST058 2x180gLP • CD • DL
Release date: 17 March 2009
Sam Shalabi is a musician and composer who has been creating and playing music in Montréal for the better part of 20 years. Unconstrained by genre, Sam’s musical history spans rock, jazz, free music, punk, and most things in-between. A highly truncated list of his projects includes Shalabi Effect, Detention, Molasses, and Nutsak, along with several releases under his own name courtesy Alien8Recordings and Squintfucker Press.
In the last bunch of years Shalabi has been writing and arranging sprawling compositions for large ensembles, the most recurring of which is Land Of Kush, incorporating anywhere from 20 to 30-plus Montréal players and vocalists. Kush includes string, brass, woodwinds, guitar, and percussion sections, in addition to electronics and Shalabi’s oud.
Shalabi has described earlier hybrid compositional work as “protest music about Arabophobia” (Osama, 2003) after 9/11 and an attempt at modern Arabic pop (Eid, 2008) inspired by an extended stay in Cairo in 2006. Land Of Kush combines both of these impulses, to our ears, while also rallying Sam’s long obsessions with psychedelic music (viz. Shalabi Effect) and epic literary fiction.
Inspired by and named after the Thomas Pynchon’s novel Against the Day, the music is broken into five sections, named for the book’s chapters. The three primary movements are centred around solo vocalists (Jason Grimmer, Molly Sweeney, Radwan Moumneh) who composed their own lyrics for the piece. In between vocal performances, Shalabi gives the orchestra ample opportunity to strut its stuff, including solos and long instrumental passages that display Sam’s unique balance of composition and ‘expository’ or improvisational instruction.
Against The Day is a complex, intense, but accessible hour of hybrid, genre-defying music. The marriage of middle-eastern, north African and western modes and influences yields a recording that evades categorization, by one of Montréal’s most challenging and prolific musical iconoclasts.
2xLP is pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal in Germany, and comes in a 100% recycled paperboard jacket with full-colour silkscreened cover artwork by Jacinthe Loranger and fold-out poster insert.
CD comes in a custom gatefold jacket printed on 100% recycled paperboard with a printed CD dust sleeve and credits insert.
Gordon Allen: trumpet
Thierry Amar: acoustic bass
Steven Balogh: electric bass
Michel Bonneau: congas, percussion
Nicholas Caloia: cello
Howard Chackowicz: drums
Pat Conan: drums
Marie Davidson: voice
Xarah Dion: electronics, keyboards
Will Eizlini: percussion
Eric Fillion: drums
Rebecca Foon: cello
Dave Gossage: flutes
Jason Grimmer: voice, lyrics
Gen Heistek: viola
Norsola Johnson cello
Philippe Lauzier: alto saxophone
Elizabeth Lima: clarinet, voice
Radwan Moumneh: voice, lyrics
Anthony Seck: lap steel guitar
Jason Sharp: baritone sax
Gavin Sheehan: electric guitar
Josh Stevenson: electronics, E.M.S synth
Molly Sweeney: voice and lyrics
Nathan Ward: rocks, objects, percussion
Yahya Zitan: darbouka
Josh Zubot: violin
Osama Shalabi: oud
Recorded and mixed at Hotel2Tango by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and Efrim Menuck.
Mastered at Grey Market in Montreal by Harris Newman.