Alif is the collective sound of five musicians at the forefront of independent music in the Arab world. Conceived in 2012 and taking its name from the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, Alif features Khyam Allami (oud), Tamer Abu Ghazaleh (vocals and buzuq), Bashar Farran (bass), Maurice Louca (keys and electronics), and Khaled Yassine (drums and percussion). Their self-produced debut, Aynama-Rtama (Wherever It Falls) is a reflection of its time and environment. Recorded between Beirut and Cairo in 2014, it is a shape-shifting album that twists and turns when one least expects it. Right from the lead track "Holako (Hulagu)" -- featuring a poem by late Iraqi poet Sargon Boulus (1944-2007) rendered into song for the first time -- the band immediately reveal their intention. Louca's gritty electronic percussion melds with Allami's rhythmic oud, and builds until the explosion of a driving rhythmic section, backing Abu Ghazaleh's frenzied buzuq, leads to a cinematic climax of soaring strings and raging drums. The startling synergy of these five musicians is retained throughout the album. A fiery sermon rages in "Al-Khutba Al-Akhira (The Last Declamation)" as the tumult of Yassine's acoustic percussion gives way to Louca's piercing synths, intertwining with Abu Ghazaleh's potent diction. From the melancholic beauty of "Dars Min Kama Sutra (A Lesson from Kama Sutra)" -- which features the tantalizing verses of renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008) -- to the majestic and surreal album-closer "Eish Jabkum Hon? (What Brings You Here?)," penned by the band's own Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, each track bursts with rhythmic drive and fervor. The band's wide-ranging influences, along with their unified and intriguing energy, give birth to a soundscape that is at once familiar and unknown. Mixed by Ali Chant of Toybox Studios, Bristol, UK (PJ Harvey, Rokia Traoré, Yann Tiersen, Gruff Rhys, John Parish) and mastered by John Dent of Loud Mastering, UK (Bob Marley, Nick Drake, Yann Tiersen, Massive Attack, Nick Cave), Aynama-Rtama traces a complex labyrinth of genres, sounds, and emotions, rendered as a unique postcard of the tumultuous rollercoaster-ride of its time. The album is adorned in artwork featuring a painting by Syrian-Lebanese visual artist Semaan Khawam. His colorful, surreal paintings, combined with original typography by Egyptian designer Salma Shamel, perfectly complement the complexities latent in Alif's music and lyrics. All editions also feature Nariman Youssef's English translations of the poems and lyrics.