This is different. Different to what Habibi, that Brooklyn based band, have given us before.
They don’t do what you expect, producing an EP, Cardamon Garden, which had songs sung in Farsi. They’ve presented two albums of brittle, Psyche-touched ’60s harmony music.
Their output doesn’t go many places—it’s already starting in a place you might not expect. But now they’ve gone somewhere they haven’t before.
That much is clear in the lamé and tinsel curtains of the press shots. Somewhere is a short EP all about NYC disco, with a ’70s atmosphere.
So Studio 54 then? Well, it isn’t the Bianca Jagger-rides-a-white-horse Club 54. Oh no, this is the backroom Studio 54—the shadowy, hedonistic activity of that club (allegedly)…
First, the sound. The word ‘garage’ is often mentioned in talk of Habibi—more of an ethos than sonically. That isn’t the case here.
‘Somewhere They Can’t Find Us’ is airless, with a dirty beat and splashy cymbals that invade your space, plus a nervy percussion. By the time the sweet melody of the chorus lets some air in, that beat has taken over.
This music sounds like it’s concentrated in a small room with everyone on top of each other. And with a verse as a half warning.
And yet this is danceable, on a messy floor and sirens wailing in the background. It ends with gasps of breath as if the Police have been shaken off.
There’s a really neurotic Talking Heads crossed with Tom Tom Club dancing at CBGB’s feel. This is bright but worried, happy but concerned. It’s a perfect feeling as clubs open up after a pandemic.
And then the other track (‘Call Our Own’) doubles down. The chunky bass and splattering cymbals are here too. The room just got smaller.
The sucking of the hi-hat takes all air out of the room. It’s no surprise that a ghostly synth starts to slither around the floor. A bright guitar line rises to bring everyone out of that cramped space. But the bass keeps us there.
And yet the vocal is lilting, open and happy. That’s soon stamped on by a bass and beat section and more uncertain floating vocal, this song wants a place to Call Our Own.
But the lyrics to ‘Somewhere They Can’t Find Us’ talk of it being, ‘Hard to belong to somewhere you don’t want to’. Although the sun licks at the words ‘Take me far away’ there are more lyrics about keeping a low profile and loneliness. After all, the song starts with ‘Nothing calls me’…
Just like the first track, ‘Call Our Own’ wants to be free but can’t escape. Both these tracks aspire to ignore that looking over the shoulder. To leave behind the waiting for the other shoe to fall feeling. To forget it for a rush to a joyous place. They never quite active it.
I’ve seldom heard a mix have such a great effect on a song.
The openness of the drums, the hardness of the bass, the claustrophobic nature of the sound. All these things show a stasis, a prison which is also a comfort. A perfect feel for our times.
And yet these songs have such a big bottom end they are designed for dancing, desperate for the dancefloor.
That beat will make you move, the melody will make you groove. But there’ll always be that feeling that someone is too close, is hiding something, can make you ill.
It’s a contradiction. And it’s beautifully shown here. A headline to an Adhoc piece about them last year was ‘Habibi Make Timeless Music About Feeling Like You Don’t Belong’. That may be right; we don’t need to fit in and in the past two years we haven’t been allowed to.
As vocalist Rahall Jamilifard told Adhoc: ‘When it creatively strikes, it strikes.’ This certainly does. And it’s out on Kill Rock Stars, that excellent dual US state record company. They are purveyors of music that isn’t easy, but that will deliver delight.
Everyone’s got to be Somewhere. Being here is exactly where it should be.
Habibi’s Somewhere is slated for a physical release from Kill Rock Stars on October 29