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Arabesque Arba’a 4, various artists

PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:12 pm
by Gordon Neill
A few weeks ago, I waxed stupid about ‘Taguerebet’ after hearing it on one of Charlie’s shows. It’s easily available on this compilation, the fourth in a series put together by Momo’s, a North African restaurant in London (how would they feel if Sony started selling bacon sandwiches?)


At first, I was mildly disappointed. Nothing that made me throw up. But there’s nothing quite like ‘Taguerebet’. That’s not the fault of this CD, though. The thing is, there isn’t anything anywhere that’s quite like ‘Taguerebet’. But, once I got over my unreasonable disappointment, I started to appreciate this collection.

First off, let’s get the second CD of re-mixes out of the way. As an increasingly middle-aged old git, I don’t much see the point of remixes. All the life has been boiled out of them, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s not as though they tackle every song on CD 1. I’d quite like to see if it’s possible to ruin ‘Taguerebet’, for example. Instead, they seem to have had it in for Natacha Atlas, having three attempts at destroying her ‘Hayati Inta’ but never quite succeeding. Still, I suppose it helps keep DJs off the streets. And I dare say younger people than me will happily tuck in to this sort of burger-on-a-bun stuff.

But the first CD is very, very tasty. Mostly quite bouncy numbers, with electric bass and guitars giving the more traditional instruments a bit of oomph. ‘Incantation’ is a naff name for a starter, but it’s perfectly inoffensive and only lasts 23 seconds. There’s some Ethiopian cheese from Mulatu Astatke, nice if you like that sort of thing, and I do. Sel is another appealing dish, with simple ingredients. Just some oud and a drizzle of electronic beats. And I also had second helpings of ‘Toura Toura’.

And, of course, there’s ‘Taguerebet’. It’s only the greatest single piece of music that I’ve tripped over all year. It has that happy blend of appearing to be quite light and traditional, but it has an interesting structure, slowly building from a restrained backing to quite a rocking call-and-response. Weeks later, I still find myself coming back to it again and again. And then there’s the riff-laden ‘Ma Kayen Walou Kima L’Amour’ which, to me, sounds vaguely like Mark Knopfler on a camel. Or is that just wishful thinking?

The only sour note is the inclusion of Rachid Taha’s ‘Rock El Casbah’. It is a great track but, quite apart from his ‘Tekitoi’ album, it seems to get shoved onto just about every Arabic compilation nowadays. It’s in danger of becoming a tired bit of lettuce. But that’s just me being grumpy again. All-in-all, this is one of the best compilations I’ve come across this year.

Star ratings? ***, if you include the second CD. ***** , if you use it as a coaster.

Re: Arabesque Arba’a 4, various artists

PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 2:59 pm
by Charlie
Gordon Neill wrote:First off, let’s get the second CD of re-mixes out of the way. As an increasingly middle-aged old git, I don’t much see the point of remixes.

Not sure if you can be increasingly middle aged, Gordon. You just kind of slip into it and suddenly you're out the other side. Old.

As somebody who has made that happy landing, I agree with you about remixes. They should never have been invented. I suspect they belong alongside sub-prime mortgage packages as an indication of corrupt and mindless times.

As for 'Taguereet', I agree too that this is perhaps the best individual track to have emerged this year, even though it has been in existence since 2005. I have asked the group to send me the source album, but nothing came yet and I'm suspicious it won't have anything to match this. Which leaves me with a quandary. In general, I don't like to include tracks on my annual compilation which have already appeared on other compilations (and I hope other people will respect mine and not duplicate it either). But if I leave this off, it will feel like there's something missing. What do you think?


PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 5:09 pm
by Gordon Neill
I like the idea of remixes as the sub-prime mortgages of the music world. Or, more accurately, as repackaged securities which turn out to be grossly overvalued.

As for 'Taguerebet', yes, I think you should borrow it for your next compilation. I know that, technically, it wasn’t issued in 2008, but let's not get obsessive about these things. It didn't exactly do great business in 2005.

And it would help to give it a bigger, or at least a wider, audience than an Arabesque compilation could deliver. There are a lot of people who wouldn't invest in a CD of solely Arab music. They’d rather stick with something safe and familiar (known in pop music as ‘derivatives’). But there’s less risk attached to a compilation like yours, with a wider portfolio, and it could help raise interest levels.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 5:49 pm
by Jamie Renton
Wow there my codgery chums. Remixes aren't all bad. The best ones breathe new life into old tunes. As I write this, I'm listening to a mashup of Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing & a New Orleans brass band which I found on the net. Giving what's become a hackneyed soundtrack to suburban seduction a much needed shot in the tush.

Of course there are a lot of dreary remixes that add nothing & probably only exist as a way of wringing some easy money out of an old tune. But I'll just ask you this: what would you rather hear, a plod rock band butchering a song or an imaginative, witty remix of that same song, which makes you hear it in a whole new light.

Good examples of the latter can be found on the recent Ska Cubano remix CD. The sound of a lot of producers taking time & care to work over tunes they obviously love in their original form, creating something which stands up in its own right.

Safe, laters, wicked, massive etc etc

Jamie AKA DJ AFAT (All Fingers And Thumbs)

PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 6:08 pm
by howard male
I'm with Jamie on this one.

Remixes can be an artform in their own right. After all, who's to say there's a definitive version of a multi-track recording? The 'original' version of a track is just the result of a number of decisions made on a particular day as to how a multitrack recording should be presented: what bits left in; what bits taken out, and what volume all those bits should be at.

Even the artist who created that 'definitive' mix might do something different with that same multitrack recording the next day. I think it's only our Western sense of the sanctity of The Finished Artwork that makes us suspicious of the remix.

And then there's the aspect of someone other than the artist themselves shedding new light on a track: looking round its corners and behind its curtains; exposing its shiny inner-workings - which appeals to the creative musician and nosy parker in me.

But, yes, 90% of remixes are pointless, just as 90% of music in general is pointless.

And, yes, Arabesque 4, CD1 - excellent. CD2 - pointless.

And, yes, put 'Taguerebet' on your next SOTW comp, Charlie - such a sublime work deserves all the exposure it can get, as it's going to be a long time before it becomes as over exposed as Rachid's 'Rock El Casbah’.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:02 pm
by Gordon Neill
Howard thinks:

it's only our Western sense of the sanctity of The Finished Artwork that makes us suspicious of the remix.

Huh? Did we change the subject without me noticing? I thought we were talking about pop music and record companies wringing the last drop of blood out of tracks.

Actually, I do agree that potentially, some remixes, in theory, in some situations, to some people, can be pretty good and even an improvement on the original. I can see the attraction, particularly for hardened DJs like Jamie, of having songs that have been reinforced with bass and drums. There's a difference between music for listening to and music for bouncing up and down to.

Even for the sedentary listener, some remixes, or these new-fangled mash-up things, can be interesting. That blend of Hit the Road Jack/Spirit In the Sky/La Grange/Rock and Roll Part 1 that Mixplosiv did a few months ago was terrific. Dub records, or at least early dub records, can genuinely add something by removing so much (the track King Tubby's Meets Rockers Uptown is the classic example).

But I'd say that those are exceptions. The vast majority of remixes/dubs/mish-mashes are overlong, dull, plodding attempts to spread a song well past it's breaking point. The more that gets added, the more that gets lost. And, frankly, I'd rather that the musicians and producers spent their time sorting out the best way to do a song, rather than waste my time and money. That's what they're paid to do.

I appreciate a bit of effort and craft by my pop stars in sorting out what works and what doesn't. Rather than producing a series of first drafts, I much prefer it when they work and re-work and re-work a song until they nail it. Then I can come in and say 'thank you very much'. I don't mind if these people want to look round corners and behind curtains and expose their shiny inner-workings. But they can do it in their own time. I just want the proper hit single version. (Actually, I realise that I'm getting dangerously close to talking about The Finished Artwork. Let's move on quickly).

Gordon AKA Nogdro

PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:03 am
by howard male
Another 'cock-up on the promotional front' to paraphrase a character in Reginald Perin. I just got an invite to the launch party of this CD. I reviewed it back in July because that was when I was told it was coming out. I just don't get it!

PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 7:30 pm
by Rod B.
Charlie and Gordon have sold me on the idea of Taguerebet and possibly the whole album, so I go over to iTunes, and what do I find?

Taguerebet, all 7 minutes 45 seconds of it, is available for €0.99

The whole album on the other hand costs €19.99.

For a twentieth of the price of the whole CD you can get what everybody seems to agree is the best track, comprising as it does a substantial proportion of the CD's running time, without all the dodgy remixes and the unwanted Rock the Casbah. So guess what I did?

If there was an argument for cherrypicking an album on iTunes, this is it.

BTW I checked on UK iTunes and the relative pricing is exactly the same (at time of writing), 79p as opposed to 15.99

PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:34 pm
by Gordon Neill
I agree with your thinking, Rod. At least up to a point. I don't think iTunes, or its equivalent is perfect (I'm currently pissed off that, having bought Plastic Bertrand's 'Ca Plane Pour Moi' a year or so ago, I've now lost it as iTunes has decided that my repaired computer is a completely different machine). But these glitches will get sorted out, and liner notes and cover art will become easier to obtain electronically. Unless the makers of CDs get their act together and cut out the useless padding, surely this is the future of music buying.

I actually think that the whole of CD1 of Arabesque 4 holds up well (although does anyone need a seventh copy of 'Rock El Casbah'?) Which brings me to the only real concern that I have with trying to pick cherries. Someone as slow as me usually needs to play a CD a few times before deciding what's worth keeping and what's worth skipping. I know that I can usually delegate this to Charlie, but he's not perfect all the time and sometimes I like to try and do it myself

But, if you're going to cherry pick, I'd also go for 'Toura Toura'. Of course, these things are very subjective.....