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The Spy From Cairo | Arabadub

album review by John Powell

The Spy From Cairo | Arabadub

A hearty mix of eastern instrumentation, roots dub riddims, and DJ sense of timing, beat, and propulsion, The Spy From Cairo’s Arabadub is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. Period.

Zeb, AKA The Spy From Cairo, not only has the coolest frickin’ name for a musical act, but is New York’s sum: Italian heritage, gypsy culture, and compiling all influences into this set of DJ music- but no, it’s not electronic. He plays all instruments, from the oud to the saz, etc. Along with piano, guitar, a string section, drum kit, bass, and heavy percussion- it’s a totally organic sounding DJ album that wholeheartedly lives up to its name. It’ll get you moving, grooving, and overall in a good state of mind.

The opener is spring loaded. “Alladin Dub” (isn’t that just a beautiful name for this record?), thrives on a skanky one-drop beat, funneled bass, and slick strings circumventing laser sounds and a great melody the instruments jam off of. Rich with percussion, it sets the album’s tone, which is mainly thumping but tempered grooves, but danceable ones.

All songs, from their names to their rhythms, evoke a very seedy, underbelly sense of Middle Eastern music- someplace gangsters might go to watch strippers. “Marseilles Noir” has a fun whirl to it, less dubby and more DJ romping, beat-wise especially. “Prince Ahmed” is straight out of James Bond, a flame-flickering thriller of a tune.

Several songs stand out, however- (not saying much; every song is amazing). “Latif” materializes slowly. The percussion is exquisitely built in layers. The lethargic tempo is a change up from the album’s usual heart racing haste. The reggae backline is simple but totally effective; the focus is on the breakdowns and play-offs.

Likewise, “Egyptian Pulse” is super sensual and one of the most dubbed out songs, eliciting computer blips and delays among the skanked out bass. Like all good DJ music, the song crescendos and burns slowly, eargasmic to the end.

Yet no other song strikes as swiftly as “Sons of Hannibal”. The strings are hypnotic, the keys soaring into delay heaven. Most of all, the rhythm is so swampy that the song will force you to turn the volume up, if you haven’t already. “Sons of Hannibal” is The Spy From Cairo’s message to the world, the perfect soldering of sounds.

Even if you’re a junky for DJ music or dub, or whatever you might be into, don’t judge Arabadub on anything but a listen-through. You will be sucked into the heavy bass n’ drums, the use of instrumentations, the organic feel, and the compositions as a whole. And, as a DJ, Zeb has expertly mixed this album. Everything shines when it should and holds back when it needs to. Nothing is out of place.

Maybe I’m talking this up too much, but you’ll never know unless you taste Arabadub for yourself, preferably on a quality stereo, when the neighbors aren’t home.

Bottom line: The only thing cooler than The Spy From Cairo’s name is the music itself.


 

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