Although I don’t think I can choose and write about a favorite anything, I can say that this record by Johnny Kafta Anti-Vegetarian Orchestra was probably one of the most fulfilling sound experiences I’ve had in my headphones in the past year. And above the music itself, there is the context in which this group came to life.

On one hand, setting up a new creative music community takes guts and a lot of sustained effort. But trying to do something as similar in a city like Beirut, that’s been in and out of civil war for decades, takes big balls, influencing the sound and the form the music takes. And what’s happened on Johnny Kafta Anti-Vegetarian Orchestra’s S/T is that sort of example. The band is a combined effort of two pioneering Lebanese groups, Scrambled Eggs & A Trio - that set the scene for local punk and improvised music for almost two decades - and delivers a packed punch of genuine and articulate musicianship.

With A Trio there’s always been a contrast of sounds thanks to the refusal of Mazen Kerbaj to use the trumpet as a normal instrument. A constant violence that at times remains passive, like the image of people trying to live their normal lives between air raids and bombs that can go off at any time. A sense of drama is always present in their improvisation, but the dynamic of Johnny Kafta leaves space for ironic displays of lullabies, backed by packs of roaring ghosts that drift even through the stellar prog-rock sensations that pretty much drive this material.

Despite seeming thoroughly arranged, the intuitive reach of the group’s playing is what keeps the anticipation of shape-shifting throughout the four tracks of the album. And it mostly lives up to the expectation.

Tracklist:

A1. Feed the Hostage
A2. Bedo's Lullaby
B1. In Praise Of Habra