Born in Senegal, raised in Kuwait, and presently splitting time between London and New York City, Fatima Al Qadiri could be seen as world traveler. Her debut album Asiatisch, being released on Hyperdub, takes the listener to what is described as an “imagined China.” It’s clear from the start it’s a China as taken from the perspective of Western Culture, the sonic explorers she’s associated herself with, namely labels UNO, Fade to Mind, and Tri-Angle (under her Ayshay alias) as well as bass futurists Nguzunguzu and J-Cush of Lit City Trax, whom Al Qadiri has collaborated with as Future Brown.
Nothing introduces this imagine China better than the opening track “Shanzhai (for Shanzai Biennial).” The song, as the title suggests, was born from working with art collective Shanzai Biennial, but what the title doesn’t tell you is that it’s a muted, a soulful reworking of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Instead of being kitschy, it comes away hooking you in.
The idea of the “imagine China” plays out into the next few songs. Where the opening track soundtracks a nice landing into the airport of Asiatisch, the following three songs take you on a hover-taxi ride through the sprawling Utopian cities that inhabit the China of our mind. Ice cold synths in “Szechaun” give way to the sharp percussion and warped vocals of “Wudang.” The end of the first half, “Hainan Island” features skittering percussion, with just enough sadness in every hit.
The second half starts strong with the proto-grime tune “Shenzhen.” The synths have now gone from being ice cold, to completely frozen over. The sparse percussion and subtle vocals dance somewhere in the range of anxiety and paranoia. “Dragon Tattoo” might be the best song on the album, with all the parts previously explored on the albums coming to a head. A rich kick drum and bass, reverberatingbackground vocals, liquid synths, and a subtle gong hit that might be missed. The main vocals are an interpolation of “We Are Siamese” from Lady & the Tramp, and instead of posing it as the stereotypical joke, it’s posed as a menaching R&B jam.
Fatima Al Qadiri’s Asiatisch is released on May 5th Hyperdub Records