|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
|Although Mush has primarily concerned itself with documenting West Coast indie hip-hop since setting sail as a label a few years back, this release from Andre Afram Asmar breaks with that tradition in a brilliant confluence of North American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern cultures. Working out of his Los Angeles recording studio, the Shroud, Asmar fuses dub and traditional Arabic music played by live musicians through an electronica production aesthetic and anti-oppression worldview, in the process creating a recording powerful enough to heal gunshot wounds if applied in the proper circumstances. While it's obvious that there's a liberal amount of studio manipulation involved in piecing these tracks together, that's half the beauty of it - countless producers could assemble a group of hot studio musicians to hack out some sort of half-assed nouveau melting pot idea, but the way in which Asmar takes these raw materials and blends them into transcendental gems of cultural syncrotism is the work of pure genius. The more straight-ahead IDM feel that prevails on the tracks where Asmar has little or no studio assistance ("computermammals," "freefirezone," "rajamalshitan") is duly noted, but I'd be impressed even if that's all he had to offer. However, when he tape the results of his nightly Shroud jam sessions, the results are nearly mystical - as the vortex of echo-treated Arabic vocals and Brazilian percussion that comprises "judgemtime" or the Bedouin hip-hop of "duniagariba" unequivocally attest. Two tracks recorded at Studio 56 by Scientist throw a healthy dub element into the equation as well, as Elias' vocals on "scientism" shorten the gap between Kingston and Marrakech from an ocean to a puddle and "tobealover" references George Faiths Scratch-produced classis of the same name to fantastic effect. But Asmar saves his master stroke for the disc's conclusion - the little cut racetothebottom, which uses a vocal track recorded live at the Dheisha refugee camp in Bethlehem to unite music and ideology in an unforgettable sublimation. To make music this beautiful and unique is worthy of international recognition in and of itself, but to also infuse it with political resonance? That's an act worthy of a Nobel Prize. - Signal to Noise