Asiatisch, Fatima Al Qadiri‘s debut album out this month on Hyperdub, is a work of art. It mixes dark and glistening technological sounds, ‘traditional’ Oriental instrumentation, ‘sino-grime’ aethetics and ethereal Mandarin dialect – featuring both prose and meaningless words – to create a soundscape which lies lost between an angsty video game soundtrack and a war zone. The mastership of Asiatisch is what makes it one of the best electronic releases of this year.
The album tells Al Qadiri’s story through an idiom of video game virtu-reality. These games were originally played by Al-Qadiri during her childhood in Kuwait, as a means of escape from what she describes as an ‘ashtray nation‘. The simultaneous worlds of West and East, and of utopian fantasy and desolate reality are captured in the sounds of Asiatisch. These are locked in the cross-panned synthesiser chords taking flight, and the haunting simulated choir effects akin to Oneohtrix Point Never.
The opening song ‘Shanzai’, a translation of Sinead O’Connor’s timeless ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, stands disconnected from the rest in its mysterious brilliance. The unique sound of Asiatisch‘s nine remaining songs layers musical ideas which span the globe: the steel drum in ‘Shanghai Freeway’, the echoing panpipes of ‘Szechuan’, and the final gong of ‘Dragon Tattoo’. This characteristic colour in Al Qadiri’s music is what contributes to its third dimensionality: an imagined China made up of faded comics, dated sci-fi movies and PlayStation One games. By the time we reach the sirens and machine gunshots of ‘Shenzhen’, we are fully engulfed in Al Qadiri’s quasi-real, quasi-virtual quest.
The aural journey of Asiatisch immediately envelops all those that stumble across it. Al Qadiri is a woman amongst few others (e.g. Laurel Halo and Holly Herndon) leading the sound of modern-day electronica, and she sets the production bar high in an otherwise male-heavy genre.
Asiatisch is out now on Hyperdub. Fatima Al Qadiri is playing at Fabric London on 23rd May for the Hyperdub 10th Birthday.