Egyptian Hip Hop - Good Don't Sleep - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Egyptian Hip Hop - Good Don't Sleep

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2012-10-22

Back in early 2010, I reviewed Egyptian Hip Hop live, supported by Is Tropical and, at the bottom of the bill, Yuck. Of the three, I was least impressed by Yuck due to their derivative early 90s US alt-rock noise, whereas the other two bands, while a bit rough round the edges, had some inventive sounds going on. Most interesting of all were Egyptian Hip Hop; four young lads who hid behind their moppy hair and bashed out a mix of chillwavey electonica, math rock noodling and near-metal riffing. At times, they appeared to be almost improvising, shifting genres as one while communicating on a telepathic level. These boys are gonna be big news soon, I thought.

But what the hell do I know? Because it was boring Yuck who went on to claim the attention with their accessible nostalgia rock and infeasibly big-haired drummer, while EHH just sort of evaporated. For a young band clearly still in the process of evolving its sound, this was probably a smart move, and one which has paid off which their long-awaited (by me) debut album, Good Don't Sleep.

On record, EHH remain as insular and elusive as they were live. They still sound like they're making noise purely for their own pleasure. The album condenses slowly into being on a bed of softly looping and curdling synth sounds. When the early-80s-ish 'White Hills' kicks into life, all chiming, dramatic guitar and chunky bass, you still feel no closer to the band themselves. This is mainly down to singer Alex Hewett's vocal; a wisp of a thing, frequently hiding behind the music, sighing words you can never capture.

Unfortunately, one effect of this is that the actual songs on Good Don't Sleep often don't stick. They're too vague, feeling like they just sort of happen without anyone taking charge and shaping them. One exception is album highlight 'SYH'. Inexplicably pushed to the latter third of the album, it bobs up and down on an infectious synth bassline and inspired, rim-shot heavy percussion.

While song-craft may not be this band's strong point, it's the sounds that'll keep you coming back. When it comes to textures, twists and turns, odd little motifs, and inventive intros and outros, EHH consistently shine. Each song feels so richly layered, packed full of experimentation and genuine curiosity at what can be produced in the studio, something which puts one in mind of Associates' much-loved Sulk.

The ambient openings of 'One Eyed King' and 'Snake Lane West', for example, are captivating, writhing with unusual synth sounds, Mick Karn-esque, aquatic bass and some notably great, jazzy drumming. However, on both tracks, when the actual songs arrive, while not having anything in particular wrong with them, they just can't help but feel a little lacking in comparison with what's gone before. In a weird way, I'm reminded of Prince's first album, 1978's For You, which the young multi-instrumentalist, delighted at being let loose in a proper studio, loaded with every kind of sonic trick his already considerable genius could muster. Everything, in fact, accept consistent songwriting.

EHH probably need to work on the songs first and the textures second. Alex Hewett, meanwhile, definitely needs to start owning his role as frontman. That said, on the likes of the lovely, limpid 'Alalon' or the tight funk of 'Yoro Diallo', you can almost feel the talent, the intelligence of these young men burning away. Whatever else, I'd take a fascinating, slightly uneven record like this over some solid but pedestrian 'classic' songwriting from the likes of Noel Gallagher any day.

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