“He sips tea with lemon, while I drink coffee. / That’s the difference between us.” Transporting the words of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish into contemporary us-and-them politics, Dutch vocalist G.W. Sok (cofounder and former frontman of The Ex) returns to Parisian duo Frédéric D. Oberland and Stéphane Pigneul’s wide-angle, post-rock epiphanies with a narrative that works like a mirror. Arriving alongside contributions from distinguished Oiseaux-Tempête collaborators Mondkopf and Jean-Michel Pirès, as well as Montreal’s Jessica Moss and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, Sok’s words join a heaving chorus of severe and contemplative tectonics in “He Is Afraid and So Am I,” groaning forward with tentative but equally glorious strides, the instrumentation of this cross-Atlantic exchange widening to mirror the mutual ground shared by Darwish’s narrator and his “other.”
Sok’s vocal performances of poems from Darwish, Ghayath Almadhoun, and Yu Jian anchor this latest tempest from Oiseaux-Tempête in a defiant sense of hope, but they are just three of seven tracks. The collective finds space to mine subtler ideas in his absence, the opening track transitioning seamlessly into the tender instrumental drift “In Crooked Flight on the Slopes of the Sky.” The album’s centrepiece is a wordless, two-part instrumental suite that builds from distorted volleys towards a mesmerizing dance, the second part charmed into a towering funnel by a colourful coalition of woodwinds and bells. It’s a lucid reflection on the anxieties of modern living, but also a critical reminder of our collective capacity for radical change.