Mar 2024 31

Album CoverThe Shadow Majlis
Album: The Departure
Category: Post-Punk / Alternative / Neo-Global
Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2024-02-27
Author: Duke Togo (Golgo13)


Losing a child is an unfathomable pain to endure, but as the press release for this debut album states, “From tragedy is often sprung the most poignant and powerful artistic output.” Even taking this into account, it’s difficult to critique The Departure on purely aesthetic grounds as the album sees Ali Jafri pouring into every note, every beat, every lyric his heartache and his love for his son Oisín. However, even without this context in mind, one can appreciate the artist’s keen efforts to imbue The Shadow Majlis with a specifically globalist musical vision – bridging alternative, post-punk, ambient, and electronic-tinged rock with the traditional modes and sounds of the middle-to-far east.

After the opening intro of “Elliðakot” sets the tone with resonant bells akin to a Buddhist prayer, “The Way Home” aims right for the heartstrings, first with the sound of a child’s voice following by Jafri singing what at first seems like a loving lullaby, but is soon revealed to also be a lament, a farewell to Oisín. Lines like “I didn’t know you’d take my heart” and “I didn’t know that this would be our last” can’t help but bring tears to the eye as they are sung with an earnest emotion that even the most hardened listener can relate to the experience of a lost loved one. From here, though, The Departure ventures into its more universal qualities, with songs like the fiery and robust “Love in Flames,” the ritualistic and rhythmic “Deer in the Headlights,” and the atmospheric and majestic “Swallowed By the Sky” featuring Jafri’s penchant for ‘80s-inspired alt. and new wave moods, his vocal harmonies somewhat evocative of era bands like The Fixx, When in Rome, or even a more refined Robert Smith. The sitar solo, tabla courtesy of Ravi Naimpally, and bright slashes of guitar soaked in effects on “Savage Castaway” also lands in this area, while “Mazdur” goes into grander, more cinematic territory with Spanish guitar, David J’s signature dub-inspired bass lines, and Jafri’s impassioned vocals almost pleading, “Where have you gone? I’ve looked for you in every dream.”

The Departure shifts in tone once again for the final three tracks as the closing title track, “I Remember,” and especially “Beshno Az Ney” are steeped in ethereal and haunted atmospheres; the latter song reprises the line of “We come to leave” from “The Way Home,” nicely tying the album together in a thematic knot – Jafri’s loving memories of Oisín resound throughout the album, but he seems careful not to let The Departure fall into the realm of sonic obituary. With some excellent guest musicians like Mark Gemini Thwait, Soriah, Olena Tsybulska, and more, complete with the production prowess of David Bottrill, The Shadow Majlis gives us a new take on world fusion that should surely be embraced.
Track list:

  1. (Intro) Elliðakot
  2. The Way Home
  3. Love in Flames
  4. Savage Castaway
  5. Mazdur
  6. Deer in the Headlights
  7. Swallowed By the Sky
  8. I Remember
  9. Beshno Az Ney (We Come to Leave)
  10. The Departure (Kolyskova)

The Shadow Majlis
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