Maghrebika / Bill Laswell


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The cross-cultural fusions of traditional North African music with more modern/Western electro-dance beats, rap, and reggae in which the Barbarity label specializes are indisputably unusual. So it might seem churlish to characterize their releases as formulaic. Still, for those who have kept up with Barbarity's projects over the years, Maghrebika's Neftakhir definitely has many of the traits we've come to expect from its albums. There are the traditional chants and melismatic melodies that are more or less at the core; the ethereal, unpredictable electronic effects; the frequent insertion and overlays of rap-like vocals and beats; and, on this release, some bass overdubs from Bill Laswell, who contributed similar work to a previous Barbarity release by Azzddine. There are some differences between this and much of the rest of the Barbarity catalog, however. While many of the musicians Barbarity has worked with have hailed from Morocco, two of the principal participants in this album, Abdelkader Belkacem (vocals) and Abdelaziz Lamari (vocals, guitar, violin, oud), are from Algeria. The singing, and the most North African-esque elements of the album in general, are a little more subdued and placid than in the typical Barbarity production, which as a whole is less manic and in-your-face than usual here. Of course, there remain points where Western technology gains the upper hand; the opening section of "Matkhafsh," for example, is typical of innumerable post-1990 instrumental dance tracks from around the globe. There are, however, many other passages (particularly those in which Lamari's instrumentation is to the forefront) in which the forms co-exist and fade in and out of each other's radar more equally, and those tend to be the most interesting sections of this CD.

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