Various Arabian Travels

Six Degrees Records has compiled a collection of tunes that put the rhythms and melodies of the near and Middle East, and North Africa through the mixing decks of some Western beat junkies. Darbuka drums and ouds (like an Arabian lute or mandolin) meet samplers and break beats over ten tracks that take the listener on a tour through countries like Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Algeria. There is a long tradition of using music to achieve trance-like states in Arabian culture, and particularly in the mystical Sufi form of Islam. Many electronica producers have the same desire to tap into the trance vibe, and interpreting Arabian music represents an opportunity for them to delve into deeper more ancient methods. At times, the synth textures can sound kind of cheese-ball against the rich resonance of the traditional rhythms and melodies, however, some songs are more successful in creating a relationship between the electronic and raw elements. Toronto's Ken Ramm gets the remix treatment from Gary Hughes (Art Of Noise, Garbage and Sly & Robbie) on "1001 Dreams," which combines epic strings, a shuffling groove, Tabla, French dialogue and only the vaguest of references to Middle Eastern percussion and microtonal scales. Arabian influences are much more apparent in Frankfurt-based Shantel's remix of "Telephone Arab (bucovina dub)," by Dissindenten, who use influences they've picked up while spending time in countries as diverse as India, Morocco and the U.S. The buzzing base line (a Gimbri usually played by musicians in the Atlas mountains) of Ekova's "Sabura (Desert Delight Remix)," by Max Pashm, is absolutely infectious as it loops over Moroccan percussion. The effect used on the vocals is perhaps a tad much, but the song's strengths definitely outweigh its weaknesses. The simplistic catchiness and robotic bass line of Norway's Acid Queen, "Sema," are an excellent compliment to the Egyptian Music Club's tarab strings. Arabian Travels represents a fair cross-section of what Western studio jockeys are doing with Arabic music, and is recommended for those folks who want their electronic beats with a twist. (Six Degrees)