Tag Archives: tri angle

Fatima Al Qadiri vs. the World

Fatima Al Qadiri is a child of the world. Born in Senegal and raised in Kuwait, the musician and artist globe-trotted for years before ending up in, where else, Brooklyn. Her global background is inseparable from her work, which spans several media. Her music confronts the conservatism she faced during her youth through reconstruction and reinterpretation. As a writer and photographer, she calls attention to issues of gender, sexuality and identity in the Arab world and beyond.

This fall, Al Qadiri has released two highly anticipated EPs. Under the pseudonym Ayshay (Arabic for “whatever”), she released WARN-U on label-of-the-year Tri Angle Records. WARN-U is an homage to the religious chants of Islam, comprised entirely of shifted and stretched samples of Al Qadiri’s voice. It is otherworldly and meditative, a tone poem both sacred and profane. And rather than handing over remix duties to a glut of producers, LA bass music duo Nguzunguzu animate the trio of songs with a breakbeat laden megamix. Similarly, Al Qadiri’s Muslim Trance Mini-Mix for Dis magazine (where she pens a column on obscure global pop) samples Sunni and Shia acappellas into an ecstatic mix.

Her latest effort, Genre-Specific Experience, is exactly that: instead of taking on religious chanting, each song is a recreation of a dance music sub-genres, with the same haunting quality of WARN-U and a distinct future bass sensibility. The first and foremost instrument on the EP is the steel drum, from the looping melody of the syrupy boom-bap of “Hip Hop Spa” to the shimmering tones of “D-Medley.” “How Can I Resis You” and “Corpcore” tackle a genre on the decline (dubstep) and one on the rise (juke), respectively. The biggest surprise is “Vatican Vibes,” which starts in a church and ends in a Pure Moods rave of ‘90s Gregorian trance.

Not just an album, Genre-Specific Experience is also a collection of collaborative music videos. The corresponding videos challenge the notions of genres and tropes in the same way her music does. The clip for “Vatican Vibes” is Catholicism as 3D video game experience; the one for “Hip Hop Spa” is a meditation on the solitary confinement of spa treatment versus that of incarceration, all under a layer of hip hop glamor.

Fatima Al Qadiri is a modern day Renaissance woman. From music and photography to fashion and the written word, her artistic vision is like Visa: it’s everywhere you want to be.

Review: Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder

Balam AcabWander/Wonder (2011) [Tri Angle] // Grade: A+

When Balam Acab released See Birds last year, simple math grouped him with the burgeoning witch house scene. There was the vaguely satanic name (actually, Balam Acab is a Mayan demigod), a dearth of information about the artist, and – most importantly – reverberating, dragged out beats. A deeper listening of See Birds raised questions about this assumption; Wander/Wonder blows it out of the water.

Water, it turns out, dominates any conversation of Wander/Wonder. As on See Birds, it is always gurgling, bubbling, or washing up against the shore. But here, some of it has evaporated: now, there’s an even greater focus on atmospherics. Throughout the record, Balam Acab (20-year old student Alec Koone) crafts songs with layers upon layers of ambience, building a sonic/kinetic energy, only to stop on a dime and cherish the empty space.

That approach to songwriting is evident from the start, on the appropriately titled “Welcome.” Layers of mechanical and organic samples, faint echoes, and Gregorian chant are percussive despite only hints of a drum beat. Out of nowhere, the song opens into a sweeping, orchestral turn, as if a curtain has been pulled back. While it’s the same layers as before, the tone is reversed – and only for a tantalizing moment, before moving on to the next composition.

Wander/Wonder is also a meditation on mainstream music, notably hip-hop and R&B. While others reach for a Cassie lyric or an Brandy chorus, Balam Acab is milling the smallest bits of melody for what they represent sonically, not nostalgically. Whether it’s hip-hop beats transmitted over a fuzzy AM radio or an R&B lyric pitch-shifted into unrecognizable oblivion, Balam Acab is clearly influenced by his forebearers, yet with no reverence paid to “how things are done.” As the album progresses, the ghostly vocals come into focus. Whereas the phonemes and gestures of “Apart” and “Motion” shade – rather than color – the songs, the echoing lyrics of “Expect” are almost decipherable behind the speaker-rupturing bass and a crescendo of violins.

Balam Acab does lovelorn romanticism better than his bedroom producer contemporaries, and unnerving and creepy better than his witch house ones. The most moving song on the record, “Oh Why,” is one of its most gentle. But while it’s melody is simple, it’s construction is not: he samples a skipping record, what sounds like a rain stick, the flutter of a bird’s wings, and some uneasy dissonance for a soundscape that is marked by juxtaposition. The record closes, ironically, with the song with the most in common with witch house. On “Fragile Hope,” water drips like plucked guitar strings, and ominous steps in the sand and uneasy breathing infuse the song with a sense of paranoia. A muffled, rolling drumbeat builds and builds until it’s suddenly gone; there’s a vocal in the distance, but it’s too late. Balam Acab has wandered elsewhere.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Dragged out of the witch house: Tri Angle Records

The Internet killed the major record label business. Like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, the Warners and Universals of the world are already dead (spoiler!) – they just have to come to terms with it. As the majors wander aimlessly, searching for answers that won’t come, indie labels have never been stronger. With a seemingly never-ending stream of genres and sounds to mine, record labels can plant their flag, carve out a niche, and make a name for themselves.

That’s exactly what Tri Angle Records has done. They’ve been on the forefront of the drag / witch house scene since last year’s compilation of re-imagined Lindsay Lohan songs Let Me Shine For You. Tri Angle is the brainchild of Robin Carolan of 20JazzFunkGreats, one of the leading proponents of witch house, in conjunction with techno label Kompakt.

After Let Me Shine For You, Tri Angle got serious, releasing Balam Acab‘s See Birds EP. See Birds is a nocturnal journey in all phases, from nightmare to dream to hazy awakening. Throughout the EP, echoes of horror movie drums are juxtaposed against airy, wistful strings and keys, a style epitomized by its book-ended title tracks. “See Birds (moon)” rumbles with murky bass blasts, while “See Birds (sun)” floats with bubbling aquatic sounds that give way to an upbeat, chiptune rhythm.

I’ve written about oOoOO previously. oOoOO is the easiest Tri Angle artist to fit under the witch house umbrella. His eponymous EP is more energetic than See Birds due to a preponderance of programmed beats. It also brings dream pop vocals higher up in the mix, whereas Balam Acab uses vocals to shade and color his compositions.

The most critically acclaimed Tri Angle artist, How To Dress Well (Brooklyn’s Tom Krell) fuses the ambiance of his Tri Angle compatriots with a deconstructionist’s take on R&B. Love Remains is haunting and romantic, with Krell’s breathy falsetto a counterpoint to the full-throated opulence of contemporary R&B singers. Like dance-focused rhythm and bass producers, HTDW feeds off nostalgia for 90s R&B, as Krell’s borrowed melodies leave the listener grasping at half-remembered dreams.

Combine the R&B of HTDW and the dance music of early industrial and you have Holy Other. Pneumatic beats keep time while synths and ghostly vocals fill in the blanks. “Touch” is Holy Other’s take on Burial-esque atmospherics, with “I’ve been looking for your touch” a weeping refrain.

The latest release in the Tri Angle catalog is Rainforest, by Clams Casino. As the title suggests, it is a technicolor nature symphony, with track titles like “Treetop” and “Waterfalls.” Clams Casino (real name Mike Volpe) has a background as a beatmaker for based rappers such as Lil B and Soulja Boy, but his tracks work better instrumentally. His diffused soundscapes and chopped & screwed samples melt and sway over left-field hip hop beats.

Next up on Tri Angle is more Balam Acab and the debut of San Francisco’s Water Borders entitled Harbored Mantras. Press materials cite industrial pioneers Coil and the dance music of Rinse FM as the inspirations for Harbored Mantras. “What Wiwant” delivers on that vague promise, with an undercurrent of sub bass, a collage of tribal effects and decidedly Gothic chanting.

Also keep watch for material from Ayshay, Tri Angle’s latest signing. Ayshay is the stage name of Fatima Al Qadiri, a Senegalese artist who was raised in Kuwait. “WARN-U,” both in song and video, seem to match the witch house sound and aesthetic, albeit with a distinctive Eastern vibe.

Call it witch house, drag, or chillwave, but when these ephemeral trends are over, Tri Angle Records will be left standing.

Tri Angle drags pop music (and Lindsay Lohan goes to jail)

Tri Angle Records, along with Disaro Records, is at the forefront of drag and witch house, with a line-up that includes Balam Acab and oOoOO. So while we wait for a VHS-versus-Beta resolution in regards to the genre name, Tri Angle has released a few mixes that stake out new territory for the developing scene.

In recognition (honor?) of Lindsay Lohan’s recent incarceration, Tri Angle has assembled Let Me Shine For You, six reworkings of Lohan’s regrettable dance pop “hits.” The mix includes tracks by oOoOO, Babe Rainbow, and Stalker and offers a very meta look at the downward spiral of Lohan’s life and career.

Tri Angle also compiled a mix for the French magazine Wow. In similar fashion to Let Me Shine For You, the mix abuses and mangles songs by Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys and Ciara, including a dark gabber edit of “Empire State of Mind.”