Wednesday February 21st, 2024
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Hassan Abou Alam’s Post-Club Album ‘Shalfata’ is Organised Chaos

In his new album, Alam, along with industry contributors that offer up their own remixes of Alam’s tracks, makes a case for distortion as the new sonic norm.

Layan Adham Ismail

As we artfully and somewhat rapidly enter the era of shedding labels, colouring outside the lines, and singing outside the boundaries of genres, a growing number of artists are adopting a more nuanced and less one-track approach to music.

One of the local voices leading this genre-bending charge within the region is Egyptian DJ and producer Hassan Abou Alam, renowned within the darker dungeon-based side of the techno scene. In his latest dance album ‘Shalfata’, Alam weaves noise music into the clean sound of mixed drums, thus creating a distorted, yet balanced out soundscape, paired with warped vocals.

The word ‘Shalfata’ itself is “an Arabic word that can roughly translate to many words depending on how it is used in a sentence. Shalfata can mean messy, splattered, and sloppy,” as Alam himself states. This messiness directly seeps into the microbial red-and-blue artwork, vaguely reminiscent of absentminded scribbles, as well as into the sonic mix.

The bass-heavy album consists of four original tracks by Alam, as well as remixed tracks by carefully selected industry colleagues ZULI, Joaquin Cornejo, 3phaz and TRAKA.

The first track, ‘Shalfata’, is slow to build in momentum but once the beat drops, the bleepy vocals increase in speed and frequency, rendering the track a high-energy club banger with successive percussive distortions.

3Phaz’s remix of ‘Shalfata’ stretches out the track, giving it a sensually slow tempo that leisurely shifts from a crawl-pace to a full sprint, one that is infused with folklore beats and successfully maintains the overall “organised sloppiness” approach Alam is celebrated for.

‘Mage in a Rage’ is where the machine-like electronica takes centre stage. With high-frequency beeps dancing up and down the musical scale, and unintelligible cut up vocals layered on top, what anchors this track is the low bass, grounding the mix and helping to organise the disarray.

The same vocal stylings that underpinned the previous tracks seep into ‘Te3ebt’, a synth-heavy fiesta that brings traditional hand-cymbals and drums into the fold around the halftime mark.

ZULI’s bugged-out remix of ‘Te3ebt’ is almost evocative of a distorted alien signal, marked by heavy-handed electronica and high-frequency buzzing, as well as a few seconds of what sounds like acoustic feedback.

As for ‘Mawgood’, the only track to be remixed twice, it starts off with a low spaced out bass, then incorporates synth and Alam’s own vocals, which slowly warp, allowing more traditional sounds to shine through and paying homage to Alam’s heritage.

The first extended mix of ‘Mawgood’ by Joaquin Cornejo, and the only track to be listened to while lounging on a remote sandy beach rather than in the blacked out abandoned warehouse that is Berlin’s Berghein, has a ballad-like quality to it, bringing soft instrumentals to the forefront and slowing down the pace almost to a complete standstill.

The fraternal twin to Joaquin Cornejo’s ‘Mawgood’ is the remixed version by TRAKA, one that resides on the grungier side of the techno evolution. Alam’s voice breaks through the grime, heavy bass and house-elements that render this remix a perfect fit for the underground hardcore club scene.

The ‘Shalfata’ album in its entirety is more than aptly named. By challenging the music industry norms and expanding the parameters of what is considered an electronic or techno sound, Alam manages to, at the very least, make a case for messiness as the new sonic norm.


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