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WPGM Recommends: Fatima Al Qadiri – Brute (Album Review)

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Powerlessness in the face of violence. Observing capitalistic and law enforcement injustice through the restrictive 21st century viewpoint of a laptop screen (via social media and video-streaming applications) provokes this state. Bed-ridden after a leg accident, to some extent like in the Stephen King horror Misery, Kuwait innovator Fatima Al Qadiri was tortured by Twitter – specifically protesting comments written by wannabe activists.

Agreeing with their disenchantment on the rise of police brutality and financial inequality, but unable to physically make a difference, this mindset became the catalyst for her conceptual and relevantly named second album Brute (a word that is defined as “stupid” and “violent“). Al Qadiri saw the rising criminalisation and debatable clampdown of silent protests in America and what better way to musically symbolize the forceful shushing of liberty than an album without words – an instrumental. A musical equivalent of self immolation and a hunger strike.

Following on from the China-themed Asiatisch, culturally curious Fatima Al Qadiri once again utilizes instrumental music to commentate on a powerful subject from a long distance voyeuristic perspective. On her debut, Chinese stereotypes were viewed from a Western anti-intellectual telescope, whilst on Brute, Al Qadiri contemplates the middle ground between peaceful demonstration and out-of-control rioting from outside the country.

It’s extremely well-synchronized due to it being released days after Polica’s United Crushers which warns the next generation about the police force and unleashed perpendicularly with Donald Trump’s controversial and ominous presidential campaign. It’s worth mentioning that Al Qadiri created her own spooky version of the “Star Spangled Banner” for a Josh Kline exhibition – of which the governmental Teletubby on the cover originates from. A nice symbol of innocent vulnerability and uncompromising strength.

Despite only being her second LP, the Senegal-born artist already possesses a familiar sonic palette consisting of almost-omnipresent choral Gregorian synths (imagine Enigma’s “Sadness Part I” sung by robots), dissonant progression and false endings, that all come together to create surprisingly claustrophobic and dystopian environments, despite being spacious and minimal.

On one hand, her eerie and sinister compositions could be accused of being repetitive and an acquired taste, but it’s a testament to her unique and idiosyncratic method that this habits are exclusively hers. The pioneering of the micro-genre sino-grime continues onto Brute. The genre has the street-aesthetic aspects of grime; gunshot sounds, foot-stumping and spitting beats whilst subtracting the rapping and focusing on the electronic potential.

The holes left by the departure of the breezy oriental instrumentation of the first album has been filled by sound bites that add weight to the political stateside outrage concept in a style not too dissimilar from Vapourwave musician James Ferraro’s Skid Row – which references the cop beating up of Rodney King. It’s useful for the listeners, and they’ll be many, that won’t understand the connection between Al Qadri’s concept and the uncomfortable half angry/half despairing mood that her avant garde brings.

Al Quadiri uses the audio from YouTube clips she watched during her confinement. Opener “Endzone” is totalitarian and fearful. The meticulous artist purposely places this at the beginning of the album to create the same sense of uncomfortableness that the non-nonsensical cover of “Nothing To Compares To U” did at the start of her debut Asiatisch.

“Endzone” consists of blasts, Long Range Acoustic Device (the audible tantamount of tear gas) panic and chaos of the 2014 Ferguson riots in Missouri with a strut of cold drone. “Power” contains an eye-opening interview with a forthright Ex-LAPD sergeant, a refreshing contrast to the megaphonic yells from officers in Brute‘s introduction.

Blows” employs a news broadcast clip that describes the police’s break up of the civilized Occupy Wall Street protest of 2011 as troublemakers carrying paper sprays and wearing badges to possibly illustrate both the barbaric carelessness of the intervention and police’s allegiance with greed.

Furthermore, the titles “Curfew“, “Blood Moon” (a metonymy for an apocalypse), “10-34” (police code for riots), “Oubliette” (the French word for dungeon) and “Aftermath” not only highlight the powerlessness of the future but make one appreciate any ounce of freedom they have in the present day.

This is Fatima Al Qadiri’s well-calculated intention throughout another uneasy and haunting wordless experience. From subtle Chinese racism to police brutality, it makes one wonder what controversial debate she will tackle in an abstract manner next. Brute is out now via Hyperdub, purchase it on iTunes here.

Words by Matt Hobbs

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