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Album review: The Spy From Cairo, "Dig"

By Bill Friskics-Warren

"Secretly Famous," the latest offering from the DJ and multi-instrumentalist Moreno Visini, is a record with a mission: to expose Western dance mavens to the sumptuous, wide-ranging music of the Arab countries of the Middle East, a world he believes to be gravely misunderstood. Raised in an Italian gypsy home, Visini - a.k.a. "the Spy from Cairo" - revamps the centuries-old music of Egypt, Jordan and Morocco with present-day beats. The result is an intoxicating strain of global electronica in the spirit of Balkan Beat Box or M.I.A.

(Worldwide appeal, after the jump.)

Titles such as "Sufi Disco" and "Oud Funk" are but impoverished shorthand for the sonic riches that swirl and palpate within the record's 13 tracks. (The oud, an Arabic guitar, figures prominently in many of Visini's compositions.) The album-opening "Nayphony" features keening flutes, bleating synths and programmed beats for five minutes of hook-laden revelry. "Kurdish Delight," by contrast, yokes a spongy bass line to a haunting clarinet melody for a more subdued and trippy effect.

Of the five tracks with vocals, three spotlight the Tunisian singer Ghalia Benali, whose loamy moans and ululations grace both "Ana Arabi," a dreamy anthem, and "Jennaty," a dead-on slab of funk with heavy dub echoes and effects. Evoking the ecstatic dancing of dervishes, "Blood & Honey" is a whirling, chanting tour de force.

Jamaican and Afro dub techniques may be the secret ingredient here, whether used to update a traditional Arabic ballad such as "Leila" or jack up the emotion on the roiling "Kembe," a Bedouin call-and-response. The effect, whatever its secret, is globetronic, and gloriously so.

Recommended Tracks: "Blood & Honey," "Nayphony," "Jennaty"

By David Malitz  |  February 16, 2010; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: The Spy From Cairo  
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