Where’s Spooky, Britt, Nitin Sawhney, Talvin Singh, anybody? We need somebody to put some groove, some real chicken-grease funk into these Arab/Indian chill discs. I know the music’s got a little bottom to it. I’ve heard it. What producer out there’s going to put that bottom on the top? Give us habitual head nodders something to bob to?
Orient Groove starts out with promise with The 1001 Nights Project’s “Leiley,” a seductive trance track with some very enticing drum loops — though it is a real endurance test at 18 minutes. But you can feel it. And, with Musicrama being the distributor of Middle Eastern music and, at one time, Irma, you get the feeling you’re in for a real, smoked-out treat. Then you get Spooky’s brilliant broken beat treatment of Natacha Atlas’ “Duden.” Damn near a masterpiece. You’re ready to grab your hookah and your houri for a real hep night.
But, as Chinua Achebe says, things fall apart. After a decent track by Yasser Habeeb, the groove goes the way of the Shah of Iran. Suddenly, you’re trapped in a land of overwrought rao, where cheesy melancholy clots your arteries. Khalid Al Shaikh and Julia Boutros give up some bizarre Left Bank torch songs, and Claude Ciari’s “Addaish Kan Fi Nass” makes you feel like you’re trapped in a department store elevator refusing to get off at any layer of Hell.
It’s a real shame. There is yet to be an “Orient” electronic compilation that moves beyond that murky, somnambulant New Age wasteland. If only somebody with real vision would come along and give the music the proper electro treatment it deserves.