Beirut Transister


2011 release. Fundamentally in the traditional ethno-percussive camp of the Muslimgauze oeuvre, the core style of Beirut Transister is raqs sharqi/baladi (traditional belly dancing) and is at home with titles like Observe with Sadiq Bey and especially Jebel Tariq. Though tracks can be recognized from parts of the latter, these are alternate versions and where Jebel is a continuous set, each track on Beirut stands alone. This album delves into raqs sharqi/baladi as tempo and density of rhythm shifts from simpler patterns to vigorous cascades of lush, layered tabla that varies from song to song to charm the listener. Few artists can deconstruct and reassemble centuries-old tradition, then edit it into near-seamless perfection while not falling into musical cliché. For instance, "Find Yugoslav Butcher of Muslims" arranges a percussive raqs sharqi ensemble into hip-hop-style beats with raunchy oud, that still sounds fresh and exciting. Another editing marvel is how field recording samples are choreographed with the obsessive detail of a radio drama and brings a strong sense of narrative. While the tablas bring kinetic energy, Arab voices intone religious recitation; call brusquely over megaphones while women and men sing or murmur dimly in the background. Not stopping there, additional ethno-instrumentation such as reeds, lute fragments and chorus' of other Mid-Eastern winds ornament the tracks. "Soufaf in Gulf" transports one into dusty Arab villages and markets (perhaps even in south Lebanon) as the ambient clop-clopping of passing horses and shrill play of children mingle with melodica loops and artfully-placed car horns and megaphone calls. A further detail is the infusion of roots reggae dub elements such as the occasional tight melodica loops, staggered echo-instrumental bits, and then the bass. It is the bass that deserves special mention as it is unlike most Muslimgauze releases. Whereas bass coils like an anaconda through albums like Remixs 1, 2 and 3 and Cobra Head Soup, it powerfully tremors through Beirut Transister like a force of nature. Few Muslimgauze recordings have the bass so powerfully pronounced; melodic, yet massively shifting like tectonic plates. A case in point is "Egyptian Song Contest," where a short Arabic phrase prefaces provocative metallic hand drum textures, relentless earthquake bass and screeching shortwave radio feedback. The masters for Beirut Transister were submitted in 1998, at the zenith of the late Bryn Jones' technical skill where he no longer was influenced by styles so much as "owning" and then and spawning his own. Abu Dub Step Bryn Jones, father of dubstep, is still the unparalleled master and this is one of the summits. Edition of 700 copies.