Indie Goes East
Was rather hesitant on both of these—B Pluses, for sure, but it wasn’t until yesterday that the subtleties in Souleyman’s Wenu Wenu revealed themselves to me as absolute brilliance. I had to go back and revisit Hebden’s work to dispel some of the assumptions I held about it, in the end finding a place where Beautiful Rewind fits.
Sometime next month I’ll compile a few mega-lists. I’ll do a best-of, that goes without saying. But I’ll probably also drop a massive Honorable Mentions list, too, and at some point I’ll post all the crap I’ve listened to this year, with or without the attending notes I did or didn’t scribble while listening. That way you have an idea of what I listened to and what I duly avoided. (Drake, for example. Fuck that untalented hack.)
FOUR TET – Beautiful Rewind (Temporary Residence): Called such, I’m assuming, because Kieran Hebden’s trajectory is one moving backwards in time, incorporating stock four-on-the-floor beats and an array of distorted, fractured vocal samples used as an instrument as much as anything else and omitting string arrangements, Indian/African rhythms, and the generally pleasurable bells and whistles of his old work: no Rounds-like layered instrumentation, less dissonant than Everything Ecstatic, more uniform than There is Love in You. “Parallel Jalebi” sounds more like SNES scrolling shooter score than a standalone single, which is no complaint. Having more in common with 2012’s comp Pink than this year’s 0181, Hebden’s finding solace in the simple. A MINUS
OMAR SOULEYMAN – Wenu Wenu (Ribbon): Syrian wedding singer gone global teams with laptronica virtuoso/producer Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet for a seven-song, forty-minute dabke party. Real Middle East residents might find Souleyman’s slick synths, booming beats, and wild zurna solos hammy in comparison with the traditional folk from which Souleyman’s suites derive, but with a near half-thousand recordings under his belt (mostly live ceremony recordings), his showmanship is undeniable and his energy palpable, the latter bit the crucial factor differentiating what virgin ears might determine as awfully similarly-sounding tracks. But those differences are sublime once revealed after several listens: staccato bass on “Nahy” or marching rhythm underscored by subtle keybs on “Khattaba.” And thank God his first true studio recording doesn’t lose the crackling edge of his multi-hour live sets—if anything, Hebden’s light touch focuses and tightens that energy, successfully melding Western electro-dance and disco with desert four-on-the-floor, a noteworthy accomplishment. This is Souleyman’s first appearance off of Seattle’s Sublime Frequencies in favor for Domino offshoot Ribbon, finding the sonorous Syrian keeping company with the likes of indie darlings Laura Marling and Django Django, strange bedfellows for a veteran of twenty-odd years who has more talent in his thumb than they do in their whole bodies. A MINUS