Land of Kush – Against the Day
Glory be; what’s this about? Kicking off like some Queen Elizabeth outtake, Against the Day develops into a full-on wig-out not heard since the days of Amon Duuls 1&2. Certainly, three minutes in The Light Over the Ranges (the opening track on this record), and you are in deep Yeti Talks to Yogi territory. There are other parallels with the German forerunners. Land Of Kush is a 30-piece orchestra, (using all manner of instruments) seemingly created and directed by Montreal composer and musician Sam Shalabi.
As befits such undertakings, a lot of the music is overtly (maybe overly) organic and yet treads - often uncomfortably - between various genres, styles and traditions. I’m not saying it’s bad, far from it, for once you settle down to this record, you find it’s a very rewarding listen, rather; I wonder whether these collisions of various musical ideas and traditions will ever transcend the sum of their parts. Or whether it’s better to give a sole focus on one of the two stools that music like this has to (often uncomfortably) straddle. Namely, either concentrating solely on the various textures and sound–collages that are thrown up, or just looking to create a coherent musical piece despite the amount of instrumentation.
Who knows… Iceland Spar has a rhythmic urgency that hints at something grander, especially when the percussion dovetails with the tremendous oud part (is it an oud?) driving the melody. And the twenty-odd minutes of Bilocations has a spacey, woozy charm about it that eventually broadens out into an entrancing (and high tempo) “gypsy serenade” (when it’s not aping Interstellar Overdrive). The title track is a great too, a thundering rhythm, squeaking woodwind and brass (and some fairly heavy guitars) create something pretty joyous. It is hypnotic stuff if you give it a chance.
But I wonder; do you need to go to such lengths to communicate your muse effectively?
Words: Richard Foster