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The Incompetents: More Songs From The Victorious City (Tunefork, 2008)

THE INCOMPETENTS is the result of the unusual collaboration between songwriter Serge Yared and producer/multi instrumentalist/arranger/sound engineer Fadi “Fe” Tabbal.

Living and working in Beirut, those two music enthusiasts, who are constantly touring the world in search of new musical adventures, finally decided to team up and join forces on a set of songs. They were naturally joined by a myriad of professional, less professional, and even involuntary musicians, using any instrument (musical or not) available at hand.
When performing on stage, the ranks of the Incompetents are augmented by talented multi-instrumentalist Abed Kobeissy and drummer/percussionist Amine Daher, for a happily disjointed live extravaganza, a raucous celebration of British 60’s psychedelia and vaudevillesque sing-along tunes.

Alfred TARAZI

[Photo by Tony Elieh]

THE ALBUM:
‘More Songs from the Victorious City’

After many desperate hours spent listening religiously to the Beach Boys, Moondog, Stephen Jones and Tom Waits, and after touring the world chasing the Sparks, Serge Yared came to Fadi “Fe” Tabbal one day with a bunch of broken lyrics and out-of-tune melodies. Fe decided that the two of them were to perform the songs on their own, no matter what.
Recorded in between riots, fratricide wars and assassinations, the project soon developed to involve a community of more than 25 “incompetents”, including anyone who came by the studio while they were recording, as well as “graphic designer” friends who were asked to illustrate one of the album’s 8 tracks, creating different interchangeable covers…
A true community work, and an outrageously spontaneous and liberating experience!

Karma TOHME

The CD was released on the night of Saturday, October 11, to coincide with the delirious concert the band gave at the Quadrangle Pub in Hazmieh, Beirut.

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On the surface of things, and upon repeated listens, this record sounds like the product of four musicians entirely in tune with each other’s possibilities and musical scope(s). What makes this venture supremely interesting, paradoxically, is that this statement is not exactly true. The four musical minds at work on this, the XEFM’s first recorded output, come from vastly differing musical backgrounds, and manage to achieve unprecedented harmony on this outstanding record.

The quartet of Charbel Haber on electric guitars and voice treatments, Tony Elieh on bass (both hailing from punk band Scrambled Eggs), Fadi Tabbal on guitars and percussion (from Tunefork Recording Studios), and Abdallah Ko on electronics (the loose cannon in this wild bunch), creates an intriguing, foggy tapestry of sounds, spreading over six tracks, and hovering between ambient electronica, folksy rock, and outlandish noise.

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Not content with his regular duties as singer/songwriter and guitar player with famed local rock band Scrambled Eggs, Charbel Haber branches out on his own for this, his first solo outing under his own name. The album marks a considerable change of direction from the Eggs’ latest punk-oriented releases, but one that Haber’s devotees could easily predict. The guitar player’s predilection for atmospheric, ambient sound-scapes finds a truly remarkable outlet on the pieces presented here.

The album’s 5 tracks vary in both length and style, from short guitar and ‘found sounds’ delightful improvisations, to longer, drone-like meanderings, featuring guitar, effects, and synthesizer-like blips and glitches. The works of such guitar players as Cul de Sac’s Glenn Jones and Pelt’s Jack Rose immediately spring to mind, as do the more ‘outward’ experimentations of the Jewelled Antler collective.

The listener’s patience finds ample reward towards the end of the album, with a lush, magnificent, 20-minute piece featuring several overlapping guitars, reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s apocalyptic tableaux and Thurston Moore’s (from Sonic Youth, and one of Haber’s idols) solo work.

[Photo ©Ghadi Smat/grand-ecart.com]

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Whether it’s the chemistry behind these otherwise vastly dissimilar young men, or the time at which the songs were recorded (most of them saw the day in the immediate aftermath of the Israeli-Lebanese conflict of July 2006), or the studio wizardry of Tunefork’s sound engineer Fadi ‘Fe’ Tabbal, the end result is quite impressive; an insane 1’30” intro featuring angular guitar lines and staccato drumming (Nabil Saliba in rare form) plunges us into the New Government’s ‘Party Animals’, a 6-song eruption that confirms this band’s standing at the pantheon of the Lebanese rock scene.

The keyboards/guitar duo of brothers Jeremie and Timothee Regnier leads the proceedings, while Zeid Hamdane’s and Cherif Saad’s rhythm guitar/bass interplay provides the songs with a fine, unexpected dubby edge. The Gov’s range of influences on this cruelly short album encompasses everything from British pop and psychedelia of the 60’s and 70’s, to more resolutely modern alternative sounds (Franz Ferdinand, Interpol).

It rarely gets any better than this.

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These newcomers on the Lebanese rap scene hail in actual fact from Palestine, but have spent their young existence in the refugee camps of Borj el Barajneh. Their incendiary prose and hard-edged beats, however, do not confine themselves to their geopolitical surroundings; quite the opposite, these five (as their ‘street’ moniker indicates) young men look and rap beyond the events of their daily life, taking in the political state of their country(ies), the social condition of the youth, and education, to name but a few. Providing their fiery lyrics with a near-perfect shield of beats and rhythms is Zeid Hamdane, the man behind Lebanese band Soapkills, with able assistance from sound engineer Fadi ‘Fe’ Tabbal. This vital collection of sounds and prose is a remarkable document of life on the Lebanese street, one that will undoubtedly be remembered in years to come as the first step of a successful musical career.

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INFO

This album marks the first foray into musical territory by talented Lebanese photographer Joanna Andraos. The young artist has spent several years studying classical piano, and has taken this knowledge to some strange, unexpected places on this sophomore album, released on Beirut’s Incognito Records. The record dexterously assembles classical strands and influences with modern, computer-generated sound constructions. The end result is reminiscent of Brian Eno’s Ambient Music series, tempered with a Middle Eastern edge and spiked with wandering electronics. The latter come courtesy of Jawad Nawfal aka Munma, who appears on several tracks, and whose unmistakable clicks and glitches make for some highly dramatic intrusions.

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LISTEN

Audio 1: Chorouq

Audio 2: Abyss (Aequo Remix)

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INFO

Following an intense year performing live in Lebanon and abroad, Munma return to the studio in 2007 to deliver the 2nd volume of what is rumored to be a trilogy, hovering around the Lebanese-Israeli war of July 2006. The band’s familiar layers of synthesized sounds are augmented with a formidable array of processed bleeps and glitches, excerpts from radio speeches and political discourses, as well as expertly diverted samples of traditional Arabic instruments. The only live electronics band of its kind in Lebanon has managed to deliver yet another haunting masterpiece, a record that seems to defy any possible categorization and labeling, posed somewhere between ambient soundscapes, moody electronica, and weary world music.

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LISTEN

Audio 1: Pluie D’ete

Audio 2: IRM

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