Slick yet oddball, fresh yet influenced by the past, this debut is a triumph.
Jude Clarke 2012-10-08
Two years on from their first EP, made in 2010 when this band of school friends were barely 18, Egyptian Hip Hop appear to be making good on the precocious promise shown. After an extended break, the band have now reassembled for a debut album, and it’s every bit as accomplished, smart and unusual as those following their progress could have hoped for.
The album opens with Tobago’s gently repetitive intro, a subtly blissed-out evocation of the Caribbean island of its title. The haze of a holiday dawn (“Sun’s out”) is reflected in Alex Hewett’s nuanced vocal, laidback yet disconnected.
Throughout the album, Hewett’s singing is an unshowy yet key factor in the band’s masterful manipulation of mood: breathy in a slightly unsettling way on Alalon; appropriately woozy on Strange Vale; blurred, elongated and disorientating on Snake Lane West.
This is a record infused with atmosphere, summoned up by synth patterns that recall, but never blindly ape, the band’s kraut and progressive rock forefathers. Songs like Pearl Sound and Iltoise shimmer with a gauze of softly building sounds, while a queasy, slightly disturbing feel seeps into Alanon’s ‘detuned’ notes.
The White Falls, one of the album’s most animated moments – along with the similar-in-feel Pearl Sound – is the Cocteau Twins’ missing triplet, its guitar lilt and rhythm slowly and beautifully emerging from the slow and mysterious opening.
The terrific Snake Lane West is part album track, part extended sound essay; a marker demonstrating the experimental potential of the band. Its drawled, played-backwards vocal effects; the mix of slinkiness, indolence and hints of danger; the almost robot-like incantation in its later parts: all of these make for a fascinating blend and an alluring listen.
Boasting a slick wash of production, yet still retaining an oddball feel; sounding young and fresh yet acknowledging an obvious debt to its predecessors: Egyptian Hip Hop’s first album is a clever, fascinating and intricate triumph.