Will Bankhead’s Trilogy Tapes is one of the UK’s most reliable sources for electronic music that pushes boundaries. Whether it’s abstracted house, distortion-heavy techno or unclassifiable electronica, TTT is one of the few labels that started on the fringes and has remained there without ever letting the quality drop. Last year saw the release of an Omar Souleyman EP on Trilogy Tapes backed with stellar remixes from Rezzett, and now the journey into the Arabic world continues with another cross-cultural electronic experiment.
Carl Gari are a Munich-based group consisting of Jonas Friedlich, Jonas Yamer and Till Funke, who orbit around Yamer’s Molten Moods imprint. For this project they travelled the Cairo to work with Sufi chanter, composer and instrumentalist Abdullah Miniawy, spending just a few days recording and then a few more producing the material at home. The results are mesmerising, coming over like a techno-leaning sibling to Radwan Moumneh’s fascinating Jerusalem In My Heart project.
The sound here is dark and devotional, generally playing off the potent interplay between Miniawy’s keening vocals and deep, ominous stretches of ambience. Nayroz is the most threatening of the lot, Miniawy’s chants and a drifting sax coated with menace by a powerful bass throb. Ya Wayni has more of a swing to it, a minimal techno skeleton underpinning a vocal performance which barely needs the reverb that Carl Gari lay on top.
Title cut Darraje (‘step’ or ‘level’) is the most affecting of the lot, with Miniawy’s most emotive inflections and frayed-wire electronics adorning a heavy stomp and dubbed-out claps. After three tracks in a similar vein the group extend the concept rather than transforming for closer Al Weshaya. The track stretches over almost twelve minutes, allowing the dangerous atmospherics and death-knell bass dives plenty of time to establish mood. By the time Miniawy enters, here sounding haunted under a layer of mechanical whirring, the claustrophobia is palpable. A suffocated guitar plays the track out, struggling to be heard beneath the incipient threat. Trilogy Tapes have once more struck gold by taking a risk. This unusual collaboration has reaped a heady reward which revels in the dark undercurrents of mysticism and points to the label’s future – unknown, but always exhilarating.