Mada Mix: 3 new electronic albums from the Middle East
Courtesy: Zahed Sultan Facebook page

ZAHED SULTAN: eyemsound

Why: He describes it as “avant-garde/electronic” music, and Kuwaiti artist Zahed Sultan’s sophomore album eyemsound is an audiovisual testament to his multi-talented artistry. It delivers a set of good, sultry (older and newer) tracks and carries no pretentions, even with its language-switching between Arabic and English, and political commentary. 

Hakatha (2012) gestures toward the Arab revolutions of 2011 with a quirky, dramatic video that transforms footage of protests into a montage of street raves synced with the music. A more recent track released from the album, Bedoon, explicitly discusses the political challenges faced by the traditionally nomadic Arab Bedouins through somber lyrics and music that judders between dub textures and Arabic trip-hop.

There’s also something intuitively innovative about how Sultan is launching eyemsound through a partnership with PledgeMusic and a global tour this summer to engage a wider audience with a unique audiovisual experience. The album is available on the artist’s website as well as Spotify.

Sounds like: Massive Attack’s Paradise Circus meets Darkside’s Paper Trails, with some Soap Kills textures.

You might not like it if: Left-field, melodic electronic music is not your thing, or if you think dub textures are wearing thin.

In three words: Sultry, lo-fi, intuitive.

Another cool video (off his previous album):

SOOPAR LOX Semesizer

Why: Because I went to the live show that launched this debut album and it was epic. Soopar Lox are nothing short of pros on stage, knowing exactly how, where and how far to take their audience, whether at a daytime show by the sea or a night gig at Cairo Jazz Club. You have to be very restrained to not find yourself dancing with abandon. Led by front man Negmaddin Shaheen, who sings while also manning synth and sometimes drums, the band’s other members include Hameed Sabry on bass, Akram al-Ashraf on guitar, Bassem Wadieaa on vocals and Mohamed Gamal al Din (Mizo) on percussion.

Sounds like: This five-track album is perfectly timed for summer, with a combination of groovy, funky house beats, electrified instruments (guitar, bass, nay and percussions) and occasional Arabic vocals or textures. It has an EDM charm, but the instrumentation at the backbone of each track keeps it from losing its way into the seedy depths chartered by DJs like Calvin Harris. This is also why it’s important to hear Soopar Lox live, because in Egypt it’s rare to see bands rocking out like that with instruments swinging across a sweaty, packed and happy dance floor. 

You might not like it if: You don’t like vocals in your electronic music, or if you only like darker, more serious techno subgenres. But I’d go out on a ledge and say, if you ever catch yourself at a Soopar Lox show, you will most certainly find yourself dancing and probably very sweaty.

In three words: Fun, energetic, groovy.

$$$TAG$$$: Greater Than The Future

Why: I like it when artists make risky albums, particularly experimental albums that expose inner turmoil or a wild idea and they’re clearly unsure if they’ll get tarred and feathered or utterly heralded.

Compared to producer Asem Tag’s previous work, this album is charged with emotion, heard mostly through the R&B-style lyrics about what sounds like a heady breakup. It’s hit or miss, but there’s something particularly alluring about the couple of tracks co-produced by frequent collaborator Ahmed Ghazouly aka Zuli, for example, Friction and the title track, “Greater than the Future.” In the former, the music mediates the charged lyrics with a sound that has appropriately ambient textures, yet is rhythmically pushed along by a trembling bass-line.

Sounds like: Vocally there’s a resemblance to Twin Shadow’s recent album, Eclipse, particularly the crooning in Flatliners. Musically, we can clearly hear the R&B influences, but it’s more ambient than the typical rhythms and treatments — it seems to channel a bit of hip-hop turned electronic producer Lee Bannon’s album Cope.

You might not like it if: You have an aversion to R&B lyrics. If that’s the case, this album might make you uncomfortable.

Described in three words: Risky, emotional, ambient.


For more electronic EPs or albums from 2015, check out Sama Abdul Hadi (Skywalker)’s Quantum Morphosis if you like deep, dark techno, and Zaed Naes’s mixtape that travels across alternative and electronic music scapes. For some dubby deep house, listen to Hatem Chiati’s EP,  and then there’s Hussein Sherbini’s rap-based Electro Chaabi.

Here’s a 33-song playlist put together when writing this article.

Let me know your summer music picks:

Maha ElNabawi