- Ayman Rostom is an old hand with sample-based music. In the mid-'90s, he was releasing jungle 12-inches under his own name, then, a little later on, slid halfway down the tempo range as Dr. Zygote. His hip-hop productions were the backbone of his label, the offbeat Boot Records, and to this day he's one half of the magnificently weird Strange U, a left-of-centre rap project with Kashmere.
In 2014, Rostom took on a new alias, The Maghreban, and applied the same digger's attitude to house. The results were electric. The weighty, feverish strain of party music spilling out of his studio didn't go unnoticed, and Gilb'R's Versatile Records provided a perfect home for a couple of singles. 2015's Wonder Woman was particularly on point—a sweaty amalgam of disco licks, boosted low-end, cosmic FX tweaking and stifling compression.
Given all that, anything was possible with The Maghreban's debut album. As the title implies, 01DEAS has a sketchpad mentality that nods to Rostom's sampling roots. From vocal-led deep house to Rhodes-kissed broken beat, there are plenty of different styles being explored here. Beyond the usual tempo and rhythm signifiers, the choice of sounds is even wilder, from modal jazz licks to clattering polyrhythms, plastic synth blurts and horror soundtrack pads.
If that sounds like it's a lot to take in, it is. The changes in style and tone in the LP's first section can be especially jarring. It opens with the lurid synth washes of "Eddies," which slumps into a half-step skit before ending almost as abruptly as it began. The following track, "Crime Jazz," summons the spirit of the composer Lalo Schifrin before schlocky B-movie strings and a lurid lead is wobbled within an inch of its life. It's a lot to digest after just six minutes.
Other moments recall The Maghreban's past 12-inches, such as the lopsided house stomp of "Can't Breathe," with its hefty bass, off-grid percussion and Anushka's vocal inflections. There's the highlife-sprinkled 4/4 burner "Mike's Afro," co-produced by Gatto Fritto. "Revenge" has a jaunty swing that stays on course around Rutendo Machiridza's singing. The latter also manages a "French Kiss"-esque slow-mo breakdown. As Machiridza's vocals shift into the upper register, "Revenge" would surely create dance floor fireworks.
Some of 01DEAS's best tracks deviate from the house template. "Sham" ramps up the tempo with broken beats and techno pads in the climax. "Mbira" cools things down with what sounds like a thumb piano on loop. It's about as calm as the album gets, and yet it still flits between different synth voices constantly, as though Rostom was turning the dial on a patch selector while idly fingering the keys. "Needy" is an exercise in restraint by comparison, locking onto one focused half-step lurch and riding it.
The album has some brilliant moments. "Mr Brown" is a masterful slice of broken beat, layered with gorgeous Rhodes tones and sumptuous strings. The smoky deep house of "Broken" is similarly excellent. Rostom's skills as a musician are evenly matched with his instinct for fantastic samples, but these qualities are often lost as your brain tries to keep up with the album's erratic flow. Convoluted as it can be, though, there's a lot to enjoy in 01DEAS's melee of sounds.
02. Crime Jazz
03. Can't Breathe feat. Anushka
04. Hi Top Remix feat. A-F-R-O
06. Mike's Afro feat. Gatto Fritto
08. Revenge feat. Rutendo Machiridza
11. Mr Brown