- A translator by day, El Mahdy Jr.'s production work seeks to perform an act of cultural mediation: between, on the one hand, the vernacular music of his native Algeria and his adopted Turkey, and on the other a global spread of electronic music including dub, hip-hop and grime. His output has focussed on music considered base in its home culture—Raï in Algeria (Raï Dubs), Arabesque in Turkey (The Spirit Of Fucked Up Places)—reframing them in an attempt to show the worth of these overlooked styles. Unschooled Western ears will probably miss the reference; we're more likely to hear echoes of Western electronica's evocations of the Middle East from Muslimgauze onwards. The title track of El Mahdy's latest EP, for example, fashions woodwind sounds (presumably sampled from the Gasba, a traditional instrument of Algeria and Tunisia, of the title) into mournful grime in a way that sounds uncannily like Visionist.
But while moody "Eastern" flourishes have long been a staple of British dance music, El Mahdy's sample aesthetic goes far beyond window dressing. Indeed, his sources often form the smoky fabric of these simple but heady compositions. "Zarga"'s muted drone and strange, halting beat are pretty innocuous at first, but the sampled vocals near the end signal a sudden lift in momentum. "Crack-Addicted Bellydancer" twitches frantically in a manner that recalls footwork, while its string samples sway with queasy grace (perhaps like the titular dancer). Only the plodding "Lost Bridge" is less than fascinating. Closing the EP, El Mahdy's Middle Eastern modalities are fine grist for the Killing Sound mill. Vessel, El Kid and Jabu submerge "Lost Bridges" in a shadowy pool of reverb, with a single tick-tick pulse keeping time. Like much of their work, it's either meditative or deeply oppressive, depending on your standpoint.
02. Gasba Grime
03. Lost Bridge
04. Crack-Addicted Bellydancer
05. Lost Bridge (Killing Sound Version)