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808s & Jupiter-8s: Egyptian Lover’s Electro Pharaoh


Back in Wax Poetics #32, the Egyptian Lover mentioned his plan to release twelve 12-inches in 2009–one for every month of the year. While that hasn’t exactly happened, it didn’t feel like total un-real talk in the interview because the beauty of electro and derivations of that music is its carpenter-ish core, which allows, kinda even demands, and actually rewards, quick, worker-bee style production.

This big 12-inch release plan also made a lot of sense because Egyptian Lover’s entire bit is he’s a kinda out-there, cocky motherfucker and some vague, grand idea to drop a ton of 12-inch vinyl in 09′ had the same, uh swagger (?) as being a jheri-curled chubby dude that sang about how all the ladies wanted him one moment and opened-up all sad and lonely a la “I Cry (Night after Night)” the next.

With Electro Pharaoh though, which came out digitally at the end of last year and moved to sites beyond iTunes at the beginning of this year and somehow–or not somehow, but inexcusably–passed through everybody’s radar, Egyptian Lover’s at least beginning to make good on his promise which is more than enough in a way.

Hardheadedly throwback, Pharaoh is all 808s and Jupiter-8 keyboards and except for being recorded way cleaner than the old stuff–my only critique of the record is, he should’ve recorded it analog, because it’s too clean like the same way the new Candlemass record is too clean–the differences between this late 08, early 09 digital release and On the Nile are negligible. Tracks sway and fold into themselves, perfect for breaking or at this point the idea of breaking, and the trebly snaps of his equipment’s complemented by warm washes of synth or a sample (the especially grand synth-strings on “Electro Pharaoh”, the low budget Bernie Worrell keybord work on “Freaky DJ”). In a way, it’s closer to Uncle Jamm’s Army stuff than it is his debut record.

The only current concession is some auto-tune or some vocoder that sounds more auto-tuned but even the auto-tune’s more DJ Class than DJ Khaled hook and you know, Egyptian Lover’s allowed to briefly cash-in on a trend he had a lot to do with developing say, twenty-five years ago. But that’s the only hint of “contemporary standards” here, as there’s not even those little bits of rapping or rap-singing of his 80s work…just stuttering, pummeling shards of tinny electronics, a shit-ton of rhythm, and lots of chanting.

In a way, the release of a new (and actually good) Egyptian Lover release has a lot to do with where rap is and in another way, it’s on some very different–or divergent–shit. Really, the most analogous record to Electro Pharaoh would be some of the newer wave of ATL producers or the Jesu side of that Jesu/Envy split from the fall ((and it’s not like Justin Broadrick isn’t hip to this rap shit) and at times, The Field. Or maybe The Field just comes to mind because the best song on Pharaoh is called “Scandinavian Summer” for some reason. A corresponding track to the classic “Egypt, Egypt”, “Scandanavian Summer” uses lots of the same sounds (extra breathy vocals, those same 808 slaps of death) and the same goofball foreign imagery only now applied to “Finnish freaks” and “Danish freaks”–a “we’re all pink inside” statement of universality bouncing to a freak-beat that yeah, is also probably a crossover grab for a part of the world that’s inexplicably latched onto electro.

Even issues of legacy and influence–something every old-school pioneer will remind you about–is handled pretty well. Most of the tracks occupy this weird place of shameless myth-making and logical extension of the shit-talking of the past. “Freaky DJ” has Egyptian Lover telling you “I survived all the changes in the industry” and it’s slightly pathetic, but then, on the title track, he does a a cool thing of inserting himelf into his own Egypt iconography to represent how say, like the Pyramids or all the Egyptian and Afro-Asiatic contributions to culture, Egyptian Lover’s music is just as big and looming and influential in its own way: “Crowds fill the arena/On the east bank of the Nile/the throne becomes a DJ booth as they play this ancient style…”.

Written by Brandon

April 19th, 2009 at 6:17 am

Posted in Egyptian Lover, Jesu, e