PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Acid Arab: Musique de France

Parisian electronic music crew Acid Arab embark on a transcultural sonic journey that seeks to resolve the political and ideological differences in which many on the continent are currently embroiled.

Acid Arab

Musique de France

Label: Crammed Discs
US Release Date: 2016-10-07
UK Release Date: 2016-10-07

With Musique de France, the Parisian electronic music collective Acid Arab manage a rare feat in the cross-pollination of pan-global sounds and styles: they create a new form of music resulting from a coming together of disparate cultures. This is no crate-digging exploitation or bastardization of existing forms. Rather, Musique de France melds techno elements seamlessly with those of North Africa and the Middle East. And not just in the expected melodic riffs designed to instantly call to mind exotic locales. Instead, these Middle Eastern motifs form the basis of each track, building around non-Western electronic drums and grooves to create something wholly new and different.

Having formed in 2012, the members of Acid Arab -- initially Parisian DJs Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho but since having brought on additional members -- set about creating a sound based on firsthand impressions of the music of North Africa and the Middle East. By connecting with artists fluent in the musical language of these regions, they were able to set about organically incorporating the styles and modes of each into a decidedly continental melting pot of electronic sounds. In this they managed a new music that forgoes mere cultural appropriation or stylistic fusion, instead building their sound from the ground up, the electronics operating in service to the disparate styles rather than vice versa.

Finding a home on Crammed Discs -- themselves no strangers to progressive world music -- Acid Arab build upon an already impressive run of EPs. From the opening moments of “Buzq Blues”, with its buzzing electronics and heavily syncopated North African groove, it’s clear this will not be a standard electronic album. As if there was ever any doubt, the rhythm breaks yet again to allow a Middle Eastern string motif to carry the track through, embracing a hypnotic circularity underscored by a rippling sub-bass line. And this only brings us to the halfway point, the rhythm dropping yet again only to cede control to a bouncing bass figure augmented by percussive hits on the upbeats, exploratory synth squiggles and a driving standard four-on-the-floor beat. It’s an intriguing opening statement that only becomes more so as the album progresses.

No mere genre pastiche, “La Hafla (feat. Sofiane Saidi)” relies on a frenetic Middle Eastern melody and Saidi’s percussive, microtonal vocals. This is a full cross-cultural immersion, the result of like-minded individuals from disparate cultures coming together to create a universally harmonious sound. And while that may sound a tad idealistic, the ease with which these musicians integrate with one another, if applied to the political arena, would certainly alleviate a great deal of the world’s conflicts. But this is music bent on creating a new, non-culturally-identified sound out of existing bits and pieces, ideas and experiments.

“Le Disco (feat. Rizan Said)” begins with a fairly standard acid house groove only to explode into a frantic, coruscating keyboard solo from guest musician and native of Syria, Rizan Said. Abandoning Western melodicism entirely, Said’s traditional Syrian-style solo can sound jarring to those not used to such exotic sounds (it admittedly at times sounds like several children engaged in a toy ray-gun fight). But the ease with which his performances is fully and completely integrated into the track is a testament to Acid Arab’s ability to avoid the dreaded “world music” tag and create something that sounds both current and universal, easily heard in any number of clubs across the globe.

A-WA’s guest vocal on “Gul L’Abi” calls to mind some of M.I.A.’s less strident releases, the melodies bending and warping along with the beat. It again, through its repetitious circularity, proves rather hypnotic, the vocals spreading to the right and left before snapping back to center during an extended call-and-response passage. The slow-burn groove borrows liberally from trap music, bringing in yet another element to Acid Arab’s pan-global stew. Fans of modern dance and electronic music -- even some hip-hop, for that matter -- will find much to like here, many of the sounds having similarly cropped up elsewhere across a host of other releases.

Musique de France is an impressive opening statement from this relatively new group. And their bold declaration within the title takes a decidedly political tone in the wake of the recent Syrian refugee crisis and the scattered terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical Islamic jihadists. By calling out the sounds contained herein as the music of France, Acid Arab plainly state their case for cross-cultural understanding and acceptance. In a nation long known for its xenophobia, it’s a profound statement on the cultural situation as viewed by the younger generations. Musique de France is, if nothing else, a fascinating experiment in transcultural harmony.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.