|MH-216 Andre Afram Asmar - Racetothebottom
Andre Afram Asmar has crafted a masterwork of organic dub-influenced downtempo with over twenty guest artists and vocalists including Scientist, Elias, and Israel, from countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Over a year in the making, racetothebottom is an ambitious project that uses live instruments as the base for each track, and then accentuates them with samples, electronics, and computer manipulation. Rooted in non-violence, the search for common ground, and support for the world's oppressed, racetothebottom is meant to be a soundtrack to life. Asmar combines seemingly disparate styles in a single track - Middle Eastern vocals over Jamaican dub, Brazilian rhythms over Western electronics - to accentuate the harmony created, and to focus on beauty found in cultures so often viewed in a negative light.
|Fans of eclectic, globe-spanning sonics will find much to enjoy in the thirteen soothing cuts - Urb / At the forefront of both hybrid and political music - YRB / Sonically radical - XLR8R / It's not globe-hopping; it's a meltdown - New York Times / An act worthy of a Nobel Prize - Signal to Noise
|racetothebottom is an ambitious work by Andre Afram Asmar, who has assembled a hefty list of guest musicians and vocalists to lend his dub-centered compositions an authentic world music depth. The liner notes read like those of your typical Bill Laswell record, and Asmar treads some of the same African and Middle Eastern influenced dub paths that Laswell is known for. But racetothebottom feels more like a collaborative homage to diverse sounds than the often forced "let me sit in on a session" vibe that some of Laswell's recordings draw out. There are nods here to abstract hip-hop, Brazilian rhythms and African drumming, and it all flows seamlessly from a single source as if the world's non-Western musical forces all got together to kick out the jams. Vocals skate between traditional sounding hymns to droning chants and mantras that roll right along with dubbed-out effects applied to djembes and doumbeks. The subtle infusion of sampled beats and studio-manipulated textures keeps the album from sounding too much like an Epcot Center jam session, while the Middle Eastern timbres add a somber tone to songs like "racetothebottom" and "camelclutch." Everything is glued together with a heaping dollop of Jamaican dub bass and spacey delay, and when the songs are most dense, they take on the familiar, experimental quality of music made in the presence of a lot of hallucinogenic plants. But what makes racetothebottom such a rich experience is that despite the forays into mind-expanding studio effects, the theme of the album is one of connecting and reflecting on global suffering. There are both pain and hope laced throughout the beats and synths and repeating vocal phrases that elevate the album above being just a clever amalgamation of world-beat styles and downtempo grooves. - The Brainwashed Brain