Album Review: Out of Nations – Quest [Riverboat Records; August 2018]

 To understand and fully appreciate Out of Nations’ sound, you first need to have a look at their passports and read about their backgrounds. A 7-piece ensemble based in Berlin, with members coming from the US, Egypt, Greece, Belgium and Austria with experiences in Lebanon and Norway, and collaborating with musicians from Colombia, Middle East and the Mediterranean region, may not read like a standard band’s bio nor something easy to define. However, that can already give you an idea of what to expect from the project, because Quest, Out of Nations’ debut album, embraces the world. Not simply musically, but also considering the artists’ approach to songwriting and performing.

We might say that Quest lacks for nothing. The 11-track LP is a musical world tour with stopovers in every single aforementioned country and region. At the same time, Out of Nations go beyond those borders, surpassing them geographically, culturally and socially. They lead their compositions in a no man’s land where traditions and styles fade and merge. So, you can find a flamenco guitar playing free-wheeling arpeggios side-by-side with a jazzy clarinet (“Fiebre” featuring Juan Ospina from M.A.K.U. Soundsystem), pure Arabic-scented horn harmonies elevating themselves over rock-like drum beats (“Feluka”), funky bass lines together with prog-inspired flute and clarinet solos (“Out of Nations”) and Egyptian folk melodies inflamed by Balkan-sounding brass (“Sellem” enriched by Dina Elwedidi vocals).

Quest is a treasure trove of influences and genres, far from being the result of a straightforward creative process though. The band took almost four years to complete and release the album, so much so that the care and attention to details transpire from each chapter. Arrangements are both intricate and precise, and despite the wide palette of colours enriching the work, Quest is nevertheless smoothly blended together, building up a 46-minute-long musical continuum.