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Often seen lurking in the darkness at Cairo Jazz Club and perennial moving-party, Nacelle, Negmo is arguably the driving force behind local Oriental-house band, Soopar Lox. As the drummer, Negmo provides the foundations on which the Soopar Lox machine is built on.
2012 saw the group’s stock increase tenfold and Negmo has topped a successful year with eponymous debut solo album, NEGMO. The independent release has provided fans a deeper insight into the electronic music producer’s own musical foundations.
Available online, Negmo has infused an eclectic range of influences – everything from house to rock – to produce eleven tracks that display a firm grasp and awareness of music in its most principle forms. Although essentially built on synths and house beats, the Egyptian artist’s time in the US studying Jazz and World Music does occasionally shine through.
The album opens with ‘Monkey Bizness’. As one of the highlights of NEGMO, the track builds with layers of basic note patterns and synth lines that create a disco-inspired drama. The vocals, delivered by the man himself, pull you out of the tone, though; “There’s a monkey in you/There’s a monkey in me/What we should do is let that monkey be free.”
Despite being another notch on the belt of what is an interesting musical point of view, much of Negmo’s vocals overshadow the tracks. ’Praying Mantis’ bucks that trend; Negmo’s vocals appear as part of the background and scenery that he creates and so the other strings that he threads into the song are given space to glimmer and glow.
Said scenery will take you to several places; ‘Somewhere on the Beach’ will have you yearning for sand between your toes and a sudden urge to put your Ray Bans on, while other tracks such as ‘Two’ will take you on a chilly, solitary, late-night drive.
The only outside contribution that appears on NEGMO comes in ‘Crazy Question’, in which Derek Brooker’s stadium-rock guitar solo adds a much needed element to what is an otherwise inconspicuous track.
Even casual house or dance fans will find something to like on this album, but many of the songs build towards a punch line that never comes and end up plateauing too early. If you are to dance to NEGMO, it’s more likely to incite casual jitters than the ecstasy of an all-out thrash. But even if that provocation is by design – the album comes with recommendations to ‘Enjoy on road trips, or at gatherings with friends’ – it will almost certainly, and unfortunately, work against the album’s impact.
Egypt’s cultural industries, regardless of affected cultural predilections of individuals, are fickle and Negmo’s approach of pulling his brand of house music away from the chaos of Cairo dance floors makes it even more difficult to find this album’s place on the local musical landscape. But this, of course, is more of a reflection of the narrowness of Cairo’s collective musical conscience than that of Negmo – an artist who, in the span of months, has achieved more than he will be given credit for.
This could and should be a landmark for local, contemporary music in Egypt. But it’s hard not to admit defeat in the face of what is a dormant, backwards music (non-)industry. So what’s the lesson here? ‘Listen Local’ seems fitting.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Dutch producer, Tijs Michiel Verwest – who you’ll know better as Tiësto – has become a household name throughout his career as one of the best trance producers, constantly flirting with the line between artistically good and crowd pleasing. His latest release, A Town Called Paradise, unfortunately, goes miles beyond that line.
The album features an impressive 18 tracks, 15 of which feature vocalists. Some of the best produced albums benefit from a stable, underlying theme, but not to the point where you can’t distinguish songs from each other, as is with the case with A Town Called Paradise.
There’s very little trance to be heard on the album, if any at all. If you were a fan of the In Search of Sunrise series, or any of Tiësto albums, you’re in for disappointment.
The first four tracks of the album, including the title track, are absolutely indistinguishable from any other EDM you would hear on the radio; abrasive synthesizers, meaningless chorus, throw your hands in the air and wait for the drop.
‘Written in Reverse’ is the first track on the album that indulges, using a very short electro-like hook that is over faster than you can realise what happened. The next song, ‘Echoes’, featuring singer Andreas Moe, who you may recognise from Avicii’s ‘Fade Into Darkness’ and utilises more electro influences, but is quite short-lived.
It really doesn’t get much better from there. Actually, saying it “doesn’t get much better” implies it was decent at some point which is a big fat lie. It’s horrendous. You’re constantly listening to cheesy EDM lines followed by awful, noisy drops. There is little musical value, and little to distinguish any of the tracks from each other. Diving into specific songs seems a little redundant, besides maybe ‘Rocky’, which sounds suspiciously similar to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, and ‘Shimmer’, featuring returning singer Christian Burns, who you’ll remember from Tiesto’s ‘In the Dark’ or Armin Van Buuren’s ‘This Light Between Us’.
Disappointing and, quite frankly, tedious, A Town Called Paradise is not just a mindless crowd-pleaser, but an exasperating and often irritating one. If you’re a fan of regurgitated, sub-par music and lyrics, this is the album and artist for you. We want that hour of our lives back.