Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Hyperdub
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Fatimia Al Qadri’s extraordinary debut album ‘Asiatisch’ marked her as a creator of eerie, minimal sound design. The Kuwaiti-born, US-baised polymath is an accomplished visual artist with a history of confronting stereotypes, and on ‘Brute’ she’s concerned with challenging authority.The music is often oppressive: rhythms jerk at unnatural angles, beats drop like gas canisters and scattered soundbites provide commentary like a CNN news report. But despite the cold, dystopian visions of songs such as ‘Battery’, there are still shafts of light that pierce the chaos, like the digital harps of ‘Fragmentation’.
Since the beginning of the year Boeing has been running an ad called "You Just Wait" to celebrate the aircraft company’s centennial. In it, Boeing forecasts an extremely optimistic vision of 2116—a future where Boeing’s cutting-edge research helps create a spotless and conflict-free world replete with colonies on Mars, regular travel to the Moon, unlimited clean energy, and smiling innocent children. It's a startlingly ironic piece of corporate lip-service that sidesteps the company’s long history of defense contracts and early pioneering in the military industrial complex.
Based off the ramblings of many republican “debates,” America in 2016 seems to be sitting on the precipice of a great dystopian shift. Those from the left and right sides of the political spectrum prop up their “outsider” candidates, weary of the establishment’s continued prostitution to international corporate interests. From Washington to New York to Ferguson, power outweighs moral and public stewardship.
The cover of Fatima Al Qadiri's second Hyperdub album, designed by Babak Radboy, features Joerg Lohse's photograph of a Josh Kline sculpture -- a life-size, Teletubby-faced figure in riot gear. The sculpture was part of Kline's Freedom exhibit, which used a version of Al Qadiri's "Star Spangled," a baleful synthetic choral track that twisted the U.S. national anthem, as its soundtrack.
Of all the artists dismantling grime in recent years, Fatima Al Qadiri has been among the most transformative. She's used the bones of a largely aggressive sound to explore the exquisite loneliness of digital culture, unpack the fetishization of warfare in the Western world and, with Asiatisch, interrogate Orientalism. Even when the execution was shaky, these conceptual records revealed how the elements of club music could be used to other ends.
Here’s something to sate those desperate for protest music: an album forged in the era of Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Kuwaiti producer Al Qadiri, also known for her group Future Brown, opens with a recording of heavy-handed policing on the streets of Ferguson. Antagonists duly sketched, she rallies back with samples of leftwing commentator Lawrence O’Donnell describing police brutality, and former LAPD officer Cheryl Dorsey reporting on failures in the force.
Fatima Al Qadiri — Brute (Hyperdub)On her debut album, Asiatisch, Senegal-born, US-based Kuwaiti producer Fatima Al Qadiri constructed a synthetic vision of modern China that both interrogated the consumerism that some feel lurks at the heart of the country’s economic surge and kept said interrogation at a superficial level, focusing on the artificiality of the new China’s towering skyscrapers and sprawling shopping malls without honing in on the humanity that has made all that possible, and therefore a mass of contradictions. Her follow-up, Brute, is concentrated on grittier realities, namely the new waves of protest that have gripped Western countries, and it emerges therefore as a more immediate and directly affecting work. Many of the stylistic forms that defined Asiatisch crop up again on Brute, but in a very different context, with synthetic voices, “oriental-sounding” (for want of a better word) keyboard tones and the shaky, unsettled beats one associates with grime, notably its Eastern-gazing offshoot “sinogrime.
Protest music – it’s just beardy blokes with ‘this machine kills fascists’ scrawled on their acoustic guitars singing about nuclear war, right? Not so much. Every culture and generation has tended to find its own way to voice its frustrations at the world, whether it be Woody Guthrie’s folk odes, Marvin Gaye asking "What’s Going On", riot grrls chucking tampons about, gangsta rappers politicizing hip hop and all sorts of bed ins, rebel songs, Live Aids and cause celebres for Bono and Billy Bragg to sign up to. The music of the revolution comes in many forms, yet the ‘yoof-of-today’ have generally been written off as a bunch of slack jawed posers too busy pissing about with selfie sticks to take much notice of the impending apocalypse.
Some of the main themes informing Hyperdub, from its early years as a web magazine into its founding as a record label, concerned relationships between sound, state control and public use of space. These often related to the unfolding history of the hardcore continuum and the implict and explict politics of British post-rave musics, many of which were seeded during early conflicts between ravers and authorities (famously leading to 1994's Criminal Justice And Public Order Act). By the time the label was founded in 2004, both grime and dubstep, the two emerging London genres that Hyperdub was most closely associated with, had developed their own distinctive relationships with the physical and social geographies of their surroundings — dubstep diffuse, reverberant and sprawling; grime dense, brittle and often rooted in specific narratives relating to local crews or neighbourhoods.
The cover of Fatima Al Qadiri’s second LP features a photo of a worse-for-wear -Teletubby dressed in police riot gear, by artist Josh Kline. The unsettling portrait sets the tone for the usually abstract musician’s most blunt and accessible work to date: an album-long response to state-backed violence against protest movements like Black Lives Matter and Occupy. Al Qadiri’s music typically unpacks concepts related to genre and history, and in a way Brute does, too – it is protest music.