Laissez Passer

GB 054LP GB 054LP

LP version. 180 gram vinyl; Includes download code. TootArd are a young, trailblazing ensemble from the occupied Golan Heights who deftly fuse Levant-tinted desert blues, melodic psych-rock, morphed reggae, and classical Arabic modalities. Their second album, Laissez Passer, is their debut international release and one of the first such releases from their homeland. Restless, buoyant, and eclectic. A Laissez Passer. Let him pass. That's the document the stateless carry. It's all that those from the occupied Golan Heights possess. Since 1967 the area has been part of Israel, but the inhabitants aren't Israelis. They don't have any citizenship. They don't have passports. Just a Laissez Passer. And for the members of TootArd, who all grew up in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan, it's a very apt name for their second album. "Laissez passers are special situation papers," explains singer and guitarist Hasan Nakhleh. "It took us a while to realise the effect. We're permanent residents in Israel, but not citizens. We have no travel documents. When we travel we need the laissez passer. With no nationality, we're officially 'undefined.'" But in statelessness, the five-piece has discovered musical freedom. TootArd grew up understanding that borders are something imposed by governments, lines that only exist on a map. On a disc, in concert, they can go wherever their imagination carries them. They carry their citizenship inside. "What we do now is the result of everything we've ever done and heard," Nakhleh says. "We began listening to Tuareg music and we fell in love with it. It resonated with us. North African music is something we've heard since we were children. We all grew up with classical Arab music. In finding our own sound, we've discovered things from all over." With its insistent riff that evokes the space of the desert; the glorious, driving, funky percussion; and an electric guitar that Nakhleh modified with extra frets to sound like an oud, the title-track builds a manifesto that bonds West Africa and the Maghreb to the Levant. It's a thrilling opener; more than that, it's a very catchy one, with the subtle reggae flourishes adding an organic international feel. TootArd are not "undefined"; they've fashioned their own identity in their music, creating a bond of the stateless that reaches from the Levant to the Tuareg -- another people without a real home -- and reaches out far beyond. Let them pass.