polyrhythms and yelps to create a sound that's worldly without being
More and more these days, we're asked to accept that the world is growing
smaller, and smaller in a good way. The arrival of digital technology and
the Internet is a force for Good, it is said, 'cause it seems that we are
communicating 行 really communicating 行 in faster and more efficient ways,
and are thus capable of superdeepening our mutual cultural understanding.
A small but eminently
worthy example could even be found in the mere existence of this rad new
band called Rainbow Arabia. Based in Echo Park, they're the
husband-and-wife team of Daniel and Tiffany Preston, whose colorfully tough
new dance-floor exotica rocks so hard at least partially because of what we
and they have learned about "world music."
A few months ago,
Rainbow Arabia put out this EP called The Basta, a little jewel that conjoins a lot of, say, DFA
Records-oriented freaky dance grooves ornately draped with some intriguing
Middle Eastern polyrhythms. The EP's a punky mix of ferocious deep-bass
synths sync'd with a small army of drum machines and percussion, and
Tiffany's unclichéd Arabic-oriented guitar fuzz and gothlike vocals
instantly established Rainbow Arabia as the purveyors of something
identifiably by-God new.
Both had some
experience in pushing the old envelope musically, including Daniel's time
served in Whiskey Biscuit and Eddie Ruscha's excellent Future Pigeon. They
started playing together simply because they hadn't yet done so. They found
out that colliding their musical tastes together bore some delicious fruit.
"We started playing music about a year ago," says Daniel. "I was kind of
over playing in big bands, with eight other people. So we just decided to
do it, and something kind of just happened, easier than we thought."
"It progressed really
fast," says Tiffany, "just being like-minded, and having a good work ethic
when it came to music."
Though both have their
own specialized likes and dislikes, they did seem to agree on an interest
and even a deep belief in the healing powers of a crushingly badass dance
groove, along with the head-spinning harmonic gambits found in the several
types of music from the Middle East.
The EP's a truly
evocative, beautifully weird and just plain stomping five-song journey to
the center of the sand dunes of your inner mind (or something), revealing
new tonalities along the way.
This is just really
great riff-rocking stuff, but in a new way 行 a Middle Eastern approach that
would've sounded lame and, well, too white, and cultural-touristy if
attempted in the '80s, or even the '90s.
Tiffany's guitar solos
work like spider-webbing around and over the polyrhythmic onslaught, in
strange and fresh approaches, similar to the itchy-skratchy sound of Can's
"I don't listen to Can
a lot," she says, "but I always try to take it to a level that's almost
gonna be brutally high. I pay attention to my tones. Soloing, I try not to
overplay it. On some of my solos, on the song, I won't play at all, then
for my solo I'll just really go for it."
While she says that her
training in Arabic scales and melodies at the Musicians Institute
undoubtedly has shaped her style, she likes hearing anything that's going
to be good for the music she's playing, including reggae 行 and the
aforementioned goth/gloom elements.
Mainly, the duo's sound
has hatched as a result of Daniel's discovery of a handful of Middle
Eastern musicians via the Net, and because of the relatively odd
instruments they use to make their music 行 and which, Daniel found out, are
available for purchase at online music stores based in Lebanon. "I was
always really into 'Sublime Frequencies' [obscure international tastemaking
music label; look it up on the Web], like the Cambodian stuff," says
Daniel. "Then I heard Omar Solomon, this Syrian guy who used keyboards for
all the oud and string parts.
The microtonal parts are done on microtonal keyboards, which I didn't know
until I saw a video of his."
Inspired by Solomon's
sound, based mostly on wedding songs, Daniel bought a few microtonal synths
available only via online Lebanese stores, instruments with wicked-complex
Arabic or Turkish drum patterns built in, whose sound inspired the creation
of many of the EP's songs, such as the mighty "Omar K" and "Let Them
Further drenched in
heavy rains of distortion, phase-shifting, fuzz, fuzz and more fuzz,
Rainbow Arabia's music really takes you places, and of course the
difference is that somehow it all adds up to something beyond, way beyond a
mere pastiche of its very interesting source materials.
That is where it's at,
as far as the best new, um, "world music" hybrids coming down the chute are
concerned. Rainbow Arabia are working on a new full-length, by the way, to
come out on Manimal Vinyl around March. And they're recording material to
be issued on National Geographic's
new music imprimatur. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, in this
brave new world where all cultures can in theory understand each other
through the magical vibes transmitted via their musical energies, Rainbow
Arabia's obscurely worded lyrics ring loud and clear.