Land of Kush Against the Day

Remarkable and soul-stirring, Sam Shalabi's latest venture is a sprawling 30-person orchestra that speaks to his myriad interests as a composer, musician and, in this particular case, conductor. A Montreal stalwart with open ears, Shalabi ostensibly gathered some of his city's finest musicians for a performance at last summer's Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival. Fortunately, almost all the players entered the Hotel2Tango studio to capture a musical happening that transcends cultural and genre signifiers yet sparks something visceral. Named after Thomas Pynchon's novel, Against the Day unfolds in chapters with a gorgeous mélange of percussion, strings, wind instruments, guitar, oud, synths, electronics and human voices propelling hearty grooves and subtle nuances with equal care. Shalabi conducts but there's free rein in the cosmic, Middle Eastern sway of "Iceland Spar," and the traces of free funk make "Bilocations" an arresting piece. Lively and impressive, Land of Kush possess a hum, like blood flowing forward, on this masterful document. ()