Available on: Duke Productions LP

Clams Casino recently wrote this on Twitter. It’s not only a great post taken on its own terms, but it’s emblematic of the attitude that has helped reinstate hip-hop (I would say underground hip-hop, but as the recent success of Clams Casino, Araabmuzik, Kreayshawn and more has shown, the lines are more blurred than ever) as one of the most vital, exciting forces in modern music, and crucially, one that’s often more “forward-thinking” than any dance genres that try to claim that tag.

Araabmuzik isn’t a good producer, not judged against the values that define good production for a lot of people. Try playing a track from one of his many mixtapes next to a mastered 12” record and you’ll notice the difference: it clips all over the place, with over-compressed kicks smashing their heads against a glass ceiling, leaving debris all over the rest of the track. It’s music designed for YouTube videos and low bitrate mp3s, which – guess what – happens to be the easiest way to get your music out there and, as Araabmuzik sensitively puts it, “get that arab money”.

The thing Araabmuzik has which sets him apart from his peers (or rivals) though, is his infamous live show. Again, he made his name in the live arena on YouTube, where he’d post videos of himself murdering his MPC in a variety of settings. Anyway, the scene’s been set: Araabmuzik’s music is crass, destructive and full of life. And Electronic Dream, his debut album, is the crassest thing he’s done yet.

Late last year, Diplomats released a mixtape called Dipset Trance Party, which featured various Dipset-affiliated producers (including Araabmuzik) making trance. On Electronic Dream, Araabmuzik takes that idea and runs with it all the way, dedicating the entire record to sunset-drenched chords and grittily sampled diva vocals. What really makes this album work though, is the fact that he rarely lets these vocals breathe: he’s so frequently shooting them down with bursts of drum machine and implosive kicks that when they do get time to shine, such as on the (relatively) restrained ‘AT2’, they sweep you away all the more. These tracks are best when they’re short and intense though, and occasionally Araabmuzik is guilty of letting them meander when he should be keeping you on your toes.

There’s nothing “cool” about Electronic Dream, frankly. It’s not underground, it’s not new, and it’s certainly not dignified: it’s straight-to-the-heart dance music, produced as cheaply as possible with commercial intentions. If you’re the sort of person who’ll balk at that, then you shouldn’t even be reading this review. But for those prepared to give trance a chance, Electronic Dream is a thousand times more vital and full of life than the majority of the overproduced, diva-for-hire vocal tracks coming out of the UK right now.

Tom Lea

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