Egyptian Hip Hop is four teenagers from Manchester who make more worldly than their name implies. They don’t specialise in Middle Eastern rap music - they hark back to a time before the Arab Spring, before Oasis, to some subconscious place where the Eighties were as one: Police guitar, keyboards like Jan Hammer, production like the mother of all coke comedowns. The band’s smudged pop sound is given extra weight by Alexander Hewett’s shoegaze vocals, rounding off a record that’s already about as far as you can get from actual Egyptian hip hop without blowing up the pyramids, illegalising boom-boxes and catching a flight out of the country.
A tribute album to the summer we never had, Good Don’t Sleep takes electronic pop music and dumps it in blazing sunlight. The pop energy comes out in warped new directions: the analogue synths of ‘The White Falls’ could pass for Boards of Canada until they burst into sunny guitars and drums, like Air France going to Hawaii. On ‘Strange Vale’ the beats swirl tighter, the lurching guitar and keyboards melting into a chorus where the band hum and shimmer, as if all four members of the Drums have scored ketamine. At every chance, Good Don’t Sleep oozes narcotics, from the fuzzy, Music For Chameleons-like bass line on ‘One Eyed King’ to ‘Tobago’ and its stoned sirens.
However, like all good drug experiences, inventiveness soon gives way to repetition and Good Don’t Sleep falls into a pattern, several tracks indistinguishable from others. This could be intentional or a side-effect of Alexander Hewett’s singing, but as ‘Alalon’s two-note synths and reggae gone wrong reappear on ‘Snake Lane West’, you realise there’s only so much slowed-down, sighing pop the brain can take without malfunctioning. It also doesn’t help that Alexander Hewett sounds like Bob Dylan trapped down a lift shaft, his voice just murky enough to irritate. Without headphones deciphering him becomes a mission: on ‘SYH’ you get words, but he’s quickly drowned out by a single keyboard whose see-saw rhythm disguises its lack of chords.
Despite some of the duff tracks dragging on, there are still enjoyable moments on Good Don’t Sleep provided you appreciate Egyptian Hip Hop’s signature sound. If a heat-fatigued Tears For Fears album isn’t for you then you won’t find much here to pique your interest, but the teens’ skill with their washed-out sounds rewards the patient listener, such as the luminous comedown of ‘Iltoise’, or the rousing, guitar-spiked choruses on ‘Yoro Diallo’; the record’s first track with chart potential. Hewett moans ”Why/Chase our clouds far” as he clings to a handrail of funk bass, proving he can project his voice when necessary. The moments when he doesn’t may take a little getting used to, depending on your ability to enjoy day-glo, sighing funk.
6George Bass's Score