Concept albums have always been found few and far between, and there are only a handful of artists who have managed to really nail them - Fatima Al Qadiri is one such example. In her five years of releasing music, the Kuwait-raised and US-residing producer has not only earned her stripes as one of the most sonically singular producers of recent times, but also as one of the most politically conscious – ensuring her work carries with it a multitude of critiques on today’s world.
As a musician who has built her career on exploring topics such as the West’s retelling of global events such as the Gulf War and its homogenisation of Asian culture, it comes as little surprise that her latest LP follows in the same vein. ‘Brute’ arrives as the lauded producer’s second full-length offering for Hyperdub and its timing feels particularly apt, as a recent historical backdrop of protests in Baltimore and Ferguson have provided Al Qadiri with some crucial inspiration.
Acting as an analysis of the changing relationship between the Western world’s figures of authority and its citizens; with recurring themes such as protest maintaining a presence throughout, this is Fatima Al Qadiri’s least ambiguous work yet. It’s an observation she herself acknowledged when speaking in an interview recently: "I think for this record I want to do the least number of interviews because I feel like it’s pretty literal".
If vagueness was something Al Qadiri wanted to avoid, and ‘rage’ an emotion on which she wanted to draw upon from the offset then ‘Brute’ stands as a towering testament. From the foreboding experimentalism in lead track ‘Endzone’ - punctuated by its use of gravely, protest audio footage to the fleeting samples of sirens heard in ‘Curfew’ and the menacing use of horns in ‘Blows’, ‘Brute’ quickly establishes itself as a harsh soundtrack to an increasingly harsher world. However, it’s on the album’s sino grime-influenced closing track that this sentiment really comes to the foreground, as a damning interview excerpt on police brutality from an ex-LAPD sergeant is left to play on ‘Power’. Moments of respite are to be had, though, and they find themselves interwoven amongst these grittier tracks - the notion of “despair” made audible for all through the minimal percussion and sombre chimes of ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Battery’ and ‘Oubliette’.
While it may be true that ‘Brute’ is Fatima Al Qadiri’s boldest take on another concept album, the production behind it remains largely unchanged from ‘Asiatisch’ and ‘Desert Strike’, as subdued percussion and haunting synths come to occupy an important place on the record once again. All discussion of technique aside though, there can be no doubt that with ‘Brute’, Al Qadiri has invoked her own personal brand of protest in a world in which discussion over that right has become ever more charged.
Words: Sofia Leadbetter
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