A man walks through a canyon, pathway winding ahead. Sheer cliffs tower above him on either side. In the distance, an edifice is carved into the mountain’s rock face. Who is he? What is this place? What has brought him here? What is the purpose of his journey? This is Al-Mahruqa.
Mental images are conjured of North African bazaars, with merchants and buyers haggling, shouting, laughing, living. You can almost smell the sweet hookah smoke, taste the spices and feel the humidity as the journey begins. As the crowd noise fades, the bass introduces itself, accompanied by rhythmic, melodious guitar work almost imitating the Imam’s call to prayer. It draws the listener in and envelops them in a myriad of heavy prog, psychedelic and desert sounds.
Apt then, that Pelegrin take their name from the Ancient French meaning ‘pilgrim’, as the Paris-based three-piece have created quite the sonic journey, with a story which follows the footsteps of a sick war veteran, it winds and weaves as much as the pathway on its cover. The songs are, in the main, huge pieces of work, forever shifting with moments of ethereal beauty, bitter angst, overwhelming cheer and undying optimism conveyed throughout, wonderfully depicting the journey to Al-Mahruqa. This is an album that is easy to get lost in, easy to marvel at the aural textures, easy to appreciate the musicianship but very difficult to put down. Repeated listens reveal things previously missed, a real treat.
Their influences are clear, of that, there is no doubt but Pelegrin are carving out their own space and time in the genre. Francois Roze (guitars/vocals), Jason Recoing (bass) and Antoine Ebel (drums), are obviously keen to regale us with more mysterious tales, as work on the second album has already begun. Let’s hope it’s not another five years in the making.
Al Mahruqa is out 13th September and can be purchased here.
Words: Scott Crawford