On the bus from Boston to New York today I started watching The Man With The Iron Fists, the new collaboration between the RZA and Tarantino. In true Tarantino fashion, the story is straightforward and the action gory and overwrought, but this is a martial arts flick the way they ought to be made. The film is alternately subtle and totally in-your-face, self-aware, eclectic, bizarre. More than the images, though, the RZA’s music caught my ear: refined drums, immaculate rhythm, obscure samples, the perfect tonal accompaniment to the stylized violence on the screen.
When I got home, I duly set about playing AraabMuzik’s new mixtape, For Professional Use Only, a task which I was looking forward to after the jacked-up action of MWIF. Araab’s debut record, the warped, dark, EDM-inspired hiphop of Electronic Dream, was a favorite of mine, and I spent many a summer night glued to YouTube videos of the producer destroying an MPC.
Sadly FPUO lacks any of the interesting or pleasant qualities of Araab’s previous work. Instead, the tape is characterized by a sound that is some sort of mutant hybrid of Avicii and Madlib: screamy, overdriven synths, samples played so many times they lose coherence, drums that seem almost painfully obvious. Electronic music is based on repetition, of course, but this seems a bit much: here it seems that the repetition is actually a lack of ideas, a sort of perverse yearning for applause. What are we listening to?
I’m reminded of a top comment on one of Araab’s MPC videos a while back in which he flips and re-flips a Cannibal Corpse song. The commenter wrote, “He fingered a girl… She died.” This seems like a sadly exact metaphor for a mix tape in which the emphasis seems not to be on musicality, songs, or evolution, but on the sheer precision with which the guy behind the machine can push buttons. While this is fascinating to watch, it’s not terribly interesting to hear.
Supporters will argue that, yes, it’s a beat tape, it’s samples of his work, these are ideas, these are sketches, and so forth. But Donuts and Jay Love Japan and the Medicine Show and series are beat tapes too, and although they too take repetition seriously, they are far from boring. Araab needs to back of the MPC and dig deeper to make his music worth listening to more than once.
2 / 5 bars
AraabMuzik – “This For the Ones Who Case”
AraabMuzik – “Getting 2 the Point”
AraabMuzik – “Astro Dust”