Posted by: Jimmy For Reals on July 5, 2014
North African and Arabic music remains one of the few exotic frontiers yet to be heavily incorporated into electronic music, although certain producers have made bold and striking moves by melding the broader region’s indigenous sounds with nominally western disciplines. Shackleton and Fatima Al Qadiri immediately spring to mind, but the more esoteric amongst you may also have been tracking the bleakly subversive sounds of Vatican Shadow, who has brought aspects of Middle Eastern conflict into sharp focus through his deeply unsettling transmissions on Hospital Productions. Whilst all of the former are predominantly focussed on the Middle East, Turkey based Algerian El Mahdy Jr presents a markedly different, not to mention directly authentic, aspect of this particular strain of Orientalism.
Much as a range of Grime producers co-opted Far Eastern sounds with East London beats to create Sino-Grime, El Mahdy Jr has taken the structures of Dub and Grime’s oblique mutations – as propagated by the likes of Vessel and SD Laika – and co-opted them with the sounds of a rich array of samples to create something you could loosely term Maghrebi-Grime. Unlike his debut album The Spirit of Fucked up Places, Gasba Grime EP draws more heavily on original samples and relies less upon conventional rhythm structures; it’s a record of two halves, one of more directly percussive tracks and another of atmospherically dense productions that seem directed at lending a very real, not to mention dread tinged, sense of place. As you might expect it’s a challenging record in places, but an engrossing and mesmerising experience nonetheless.
On the (comparatively) conventional side of the proceedings, title track Gasba Grime does pretty much what it says on the tin, a canny fusion of traditional Algerian instrumentation, brittle grime rhythms and Arabic chatter sequenced into pirate radio-alike patterns, whilst the disorientating Crack Addicted Belly Dancer combines droning horn samples and staggered beats into a hypnotic stepper of sorts. Meanwhile the saturated atmospheres of Zarga and Lost Bridge are what really make this record stand out – the former feels battling through a cataclysmic sandstorm on the streets of Algiers, the latter a starlit caravan odyssey across the desert in search of forgotten oases. To top it off Bristol’s Killing Sound deliver a tense remix of Lost Bridge, effectively coming across like Raime soundtracking an ancient blood ritual in a ruined temple complex on the North Saharan fringe.
Gasba Grime EP is out now on Danse Noire
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