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ARTIST
TITLE
Migrant Birds
FORMAT
CD

LABEL
CATALOG #
GB 095CD GB 095CD
GENRE
RELEASE DATE
5/29/2020

The inventive duo of brothers from the Golan Heights -- Hasan and Rami Nakhleh -- return with an infectious re-imagining of their sound. Jammed full of pop hooks and quarter-tone melodic lines, Migrant Birds unleashes a disco whirlwind that pays homage to the Middle Eastern dancefloor scenes of the '80s. The new synth-powered album from TootArd takes them to the dancefloor, about as far from the spare, guitar-driven desert blues of their highly touted Glitterbeat debut Laissez Passer (GB 054CD/LP, 2017). The '80s may be the catalyst, with the glittering, hedonistic party vibe. But the real roots of the music here run deeper, to musicians like keyboardist Magdi al-Husseini and Ihsan Al-Munzer, who were the first to introduce synthesizers to the Arabic classical style, or Omar Khorshid, who pioneered the addition of electric guitar and worked with the legendary Umm Kulthum. They brought Arabic music firmly into the modern age. Migrant Birds winds all those strands from the past together into a very intricately-crafted whole with a full sound. Under the beats and joy, there's a dark contrast, a sorrow that casts its shadow all across the lyrics. The album's heart is simple idea -- freedom; of being those Migrant Birds and flying away. But perhaps that's as natural as breathing for people who remain officially "undefined" and stateless. Those who are born in the occupied Golan Heights have no passport, depending instead on a document called a laissez passer to be able to cross borders. It is a situation that has existed since the late 1960s when Israel took control of the region. A feeling of leaving, of knowing the emotional distance from where you began, is captured in "Wanderlust" with its Kerouac images of existing on the road. In "Babe," the thoughts of escape come from an Arabic woman, desperate to flee her dominant husband. That sadness which ripples through the lyrics is a perfect fit with the album's two slower tracks, "Ya Ghali" and the stately closer, "Remote Love." All through Migrant Birds, the focus is on songs that have plenty to say. Only one is an instrumental, the enigmatically-titled "Stone Heap Of The Wild Cat." While proudly rooted in the Middle East, Migrant Birds is infectious and globally accessible. But the album embraces a basic pop concept, with short, well-produced songs.