The six long songs on this self-titled release from Abdel Hadi Halo & The El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers are all at their root level concerned with the emotion of love. Lyrically, some of them probe the deeper emotions of the word, while others simply talk about pretty girls. Musically following suit, the songs are alternately understated and emphatic, veering between full-scale orchestra with call and response vocals to quite passages that are a bit more reflective.
Performed by Abdel Hadi Halo & The El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers in the city of the same name, the group bridges the territories between the Jewish and Muslim communities there, which is something in an of itself. The chaabi music that play really branched out after World War II, as it brought together the Mediterranean soundtrack of the era, swirling in bits of jazz, tango and other styles to the more traditional roots. Combining more traditional instruments (flute, piano, banjo, accordion) with a load of interesting percussion and some other oddities (like the gambar, a stringed turtle shell), there's certainly enough unique sounds here to keep things interesting, and these continuous take recordings certainly capture a vibrant sound.
Six songs run over an hour, and despite being recorded in one big room with a large ensemble of players, sound amazing. "Win Saadi" opens the release and opens with percussion-heavy sections with vocals before backing instrumentation slowly layers in and gradually increases the feverish pace up through the end. By the end of the eight minutes, it's reached an incredible intensity, with rollicking guitars, flutes, banjos, and multiple layers of drums all weaving around one another. "Fatouma" is even more intricate, with more sparse, drum-touched sections offset by dizzying bursts of melodic flourishes that are even moreso because of their odd time signatures. If the release has one weakness, it's that without enough reference points (I obviously don't speak the language), several of the songs run together (other than the short "Min Yaati Kalbou Lil Melah," which is largely just guitar and vocals). Regardless, though, this is a soulful, stirring release by a bunch of musicians who seem to have some sort of otherworldly connection with one another.