Fatima Al Qadiri: Asiatisch (CD, Hyperdub, April 2014)

This record opens rather arrestingly with a song whose lyrics are more-or-less nonsense verse in Mandarin, sung to the tune of Nothing Compares 2 U, accompanied by little more than a synthesized celestial choir. The effect is rather surreal, but the significance is clear: Al Qadiri (who is Kuwaiti, born to Russian-educated parents in Senegal, and lives in New York) has something to say about the exploitative exoticization of the orient, and oriental women in particular, in western culture. This theme dominates the album, which is mostly an intriguing mixture of dubstep and Chinese classical. The dubstep is there in the bassy whaaarp noises. It’s there in the skittering beats, although these are pretty abstracted and only present on about half the tracks. It’s there, I guess, in the way the tracks are structured. The Chinese elements are largely in the melodies, both in the (largely synthesized) instrumentation and the pentatonic scale. A couple of tracks have spoken, or maybe more intoned, Chinese vocal elements. Dragon Tattoo has vocodored English repeating “I’ve a dragon tattoo on my arm / and I mean to do you harm” and “Speak Chinese if you please baby / speak Chinese if you please”, presumably referencing Stieg Larsson and Disney’s We Are Siamese, and frankly a teeny tiny bit hammering the point home. I’ve previously encountered Al Qadiri as Ayshay for 2011’s Warn-U. Much like that record, this is both conceptually and musically interesting, but perhaps not as deep as it thinks it is. I like the sound, and I really like some moments here, but it doesn’t quite do enough to keep my interest over the length of the album.

I bought this from Sister Ray, an actual shop.

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