Fatima Al Qadiri Conjures a Cinematic Din on Exceptional Debut, 'Asiatisch'

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Asiatisch
Reviews
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Label: Hyperdub

by Anupa Mistry

Someone needs to hire Fatima Al Qadiri to score a film. If all of the experimental electronic producer's releases to date were soundtracks, they'd be paired with movies that are variations – maybe a franchise! – on hypercoloured, speculative fiction tales, stories that shift between glass-and-steel big cities, desolate natural expanses, and cosmopolitan clusters of the developing world. An aesthete's take on club music, her work uses visceral tension and synthetic sound to explore ideas of mysticism and conflict. On 2011's Genre Specific X-Perience, Al Qadiri channeled the fraught tranquility of jungles and oases via steel pan synths and tense, ricocheting percussion. Lock-and-load effects echo through the sparse beginning of 2012's Desert Strike EP giving way to melodically-dense bubbling below. And Asiatisch, her latest release and first full-length recording, simulates artificial Chinoiserie to situate the record in a place that looks (but doesn't act) like the L.A./Shanghai near-future of Spike Jonze's Her.

Geography, and maybe its deconstruction, is of import to the Brooklyn-based producer, who was born in Senegal and spent summers in London whilst growing up amidst Gulf War-era Kuwait. Like prior releases, Asiatisch invokes some real or imagined future place by using sounds from everywhere and nowhere. "Shanzhai (For Shanzhai Biennial)" features Chinese singer Helen Feng interpolating the melody to Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U," in iridescent, but nonsensical Mandarin – flipping the pejorative babble lobbed at Chinese and East Asian peoples by racists in the West. It's the most uplifting thing on the whole record. The rest of the songs are tranquil, snare-free tributes to Sinogrime, a sinuous offshoot of grime that, like some early '00s American rap and R&B, was predicated on Orientalist samples and motifs. "Wudang," and "Hainan Island" are the best of the batch; the former is sluggishly syncopated and filled with the din of nattering robots and droning choir keys, while the latter reincorporates bright tones and groaning swing blade synths from Al Qadiri's early high contrast compositions.

Al Qadiri's found a home for this record at HyperDub, a label with an impressive line-up of innovative female producers including Cooly G, Laurel Halo, Jessy Lanza, and Ikonika. Though Asiatisch is her most sensual and least thesis-y recording to date, all of Al Qadiri's work is conceptual, relying on a reimagined world with the narrative centralized in neglected, exotified, or misunderstood places. It's immersive and transgressive, if you care about this stuff.

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