8/10 Mike Staff review, 01 May 2014
Here's an interesting one from Hyperdub. The latest from mercurial Kuwaiti artist Fatima Al Qadiri, now based between London and New York, takes us on an imaginary journey through China. "It's not the real China," she clarifies. "I've never been to China. I only know what the West is telling me about China."
...So this is a concept album about the West's perception of china through the lens of modern Western bass music and electronica. The Chinese aspects are quite subtly woven into the sensuous and woozy compositions through little hints of melody and texture and occasional Chinese-language vocals amidst a landscape of immaculate Forest Swords meets Laurel Halo synth drift.
It's an inviting listen. I'm particularly enjoying the dinky synth-xylophone melodies paired with insistent techno pulses and stunted foghorn blasts in 'Wudang', a good example of Al Qadiri's elegant and skeletal arrangements. She manages to fit a lot of ideas in whilst always staying sparse and focused and repetitive. Likewise 'Dragon Tattoo' pairs throbbing synth drones with nimble chiming melodies in a shimmering echoed passaged laced with silky unease.
'Shanghai Freeway' seems to be a translation of Prince's 'Nothing Compares 2 U' accompanied by ghostly hovering drones and packs some genuine emotional heft before closer 'Jade Stairs' exudes a smoky cool with panpipe sounds and squelchy synths swaggering over an ominous clicking beat. The snare is denied, it takes half the song for the bass drum to arrive, the groove is sort of Gonjasufi-esque but the sounds are much more digital. Interesting stuff - she manages to avoid the potential pitfalls of bad taste that one might expect an album about China by someone who's never been to China to fall into by creating something seductive and mysterious, that raises questions more than it provides answers.
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