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American ‘Brute’: punk for the age of terror

| Sunday, March 20, 2016

AmericanBrute_WEBLAUREN WELDON | The Observer

As election season thrusts forward unapologetically — for better or for worse — it is hard not to feel the growing tensions once again unzipping a rift between the American populace, one filled with the land mines that are those controversial issues we diligently avoid around the dinner table. As ludicrous as all election years seem to turn out, the rhetoric this time has rung particularly strange in my ears. Every word uttered seems to echo fear.

Parallel to the increasing polarization and radicalization of politics in recent years, electronic producers, and particularly producers of UK bass, have been more and more interested in capturing — bearing witness to, one might say – the explosive and often violent atmosphere of major urban centers today, which, in the worst cases, mimic the worlds we would rather only read about in dystopian fiction.

Fitting this trend comfortably, Fatima Al Qadiri’s “Brute” dropped earlier this month quite intentionally like a bomb, squarely over the politicized denizens of an America in the middle of a primary season that has deepened existing animosities, created unprecedented new ones, and has notably led to the eruption of racial violence at political gatherings, all as the country continues to tackle these same century-old issues. And in the tune of the candidates on both sides of the political rift, Al Qadiri’s LP sings with trauma and terror.

The statement Al Qadiri is making here is conveyed bluntly on opener “Endzone,” which resonates with field recordings of riot police clashing with civilians, a portrait of urban volatility that is reminiscent of the demonstration and subsequent outbreak of violence that took place in Ferguson, Missouri almost two years ago.

As strong as the album may kick off, however, it must be said that the most impactful tracks on this album, unfortunately, are those which incorporate these kinds of field recordings. “Brute” is similar in style and mood to the paranoid bass music of fellow electronic producer Untold, especially on his 2014 debut “Black Light Spiral.” But while Untold’s tracks use virtually no sampling and still blister with entropic tension, the majority of the sample-less tracks on “Brute,” which amount mostly to somewhat minimalistic bass-rich instrumentals, do significantly less to evoke the same sense of tension and strife. In fact, for the most part, they fall flat, as they fail to fully immerse the listener in the atmosphere that the album is attempting to create.

Overall, Fatima Al Qadiri succeeds in painting her music the right colors — blue uniforms, red tape, yellow caution lines — but is less successful in saturating its aura with them, and the album recedes into the background without music protest. “Brute” could be a warm-up listen, an initial catalyst for the bumps on your skin. But it would take a lot more to get your blood boiling. Maybe you could go watch a political debate instead.

3/5 Shamrocks

Recommended Tracks: “Endzone,” “Blood Moon,” “Curfew”

Similar Artists: James Ferraro, Untold, Dutch E Germ

 

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