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Friday, May 5, 2006


Badawi "Safe"

NYC's Badawi first appeared in the mid-'90s, dropping two albums of Middle-Eastern-tinged dub that effortlessly mixed hand-stroked percussion with pounding programmed rhythms that possessed a distinctly Jamaican skank. Whether he's doing movie soundtracks or staging an original experimental opera, Raz Mesinai -- the man behind Badawi -- has continually expanded his horizons. About the only constant in Mesinai's music is the pulse of his Arabic drumming.

That holds true on his latest -- and best -- release to date, "Safe," which comes across as some impossible-yet-true blend of The Kronos Quartet, Steve Reich minimalism, belly-dancer beats and dub mixology. Mesinai himself plays the Mid-Eastern drums and flutes, while also doing some background programming. To this he adds a host of guest musicians on violin, cello and post-punk guitar (downtown fave Marc Ribot), mixed into dense, intense, tapestries of sound. The strings have an urgent, staccato quality, frequently cutting loose with some violently bowed squalls, while underneath lies the hypnotic, groove-driven bass and percussion.

It's an album that walks the line between ethnic, improv, post-rock and club music, proving yet again that the best music these days is often that which transcends genre.

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