To anyone who missed the Omar Souleyman-train, here’s your second chance to jump in. Sublime Frequencies collaborator Mark Gergis returns with his Sham Palace imprint for more beamed in sounds from the 90s-00s dabke music scene. Found throughout the Levantine Middle East, dabken is a pulsing celebration of music with waves of repetitive rhythm, resonant guitar, and joyful percussion, altogether impossible to not get you moving. Electronic beats keep the party going at an unrelenting and hypnotic pace.
This is by no means background music intended for passive listening. It’s noisy, colorful, maxed-out party music, in essence intended for weddings and outdoor parties in the Houran. There’s no slow jam, only active melodies and performances. The electronic beats and percussion along with barely-processed vocal samples modernize the sound, but the dusty, makeshift audio is prevalent to each song. Ahmad Al Kosem’s opener “Love is Not a Joke,” is a powerhouse of rhythm and chanted vocals, as the vocalist yells melodically more than sings musically. Mohamed Al Ali’s “Mili Alay (Sway to Me)” sounds a bit darker, incorporating sped-up vocal samples, and vamping phrases of horn and flute. The instrumental lines are then mimicked and aped through a synthesizer and various effects. “Your Love Made My Head Hurt” (*best song title ever) from Abu Sultan employs the quickest pace in the collection, with cheap vocals that seem to be beamed in from pirate radio.
Each of the songs’ intricacies are revealed after repeat listens, but immersing yourself in the LP is the best way to experience the vibes.