Building upon trip-hop and the sound that’s synonymous with ambient acts like Portishead and Lamb, Soapkills (الصابون يقتل) became Beirut’s riposte to electro-pop.
While you’d have trouble not thinking this would be tacked on the next Buddha Bar compilation, the result was a successful symbiosis of Arabtronica, Arabic electronica if you will, sans the neo-orientalist nuances that often taint many an ethnic beat.
Fronted by Yasmine Hamdan and Zeid Hamdan, the indie-electro duo formed in 1997 and then disbanded as each set to embark on solo projects.
Recently, I discovered Y.A.S., an electro-pop duo made up of Yasmine Hamdan and Mirwais Ahmadzaï. I could barely contain my underground music excitement. Mirwais is a production luminary, joining the caliber of other sub rosa virtuosos such as William Orbit and Moby.
Arabology (Y.A.S’s debut) is an attempt to catapult Arabic music and Yasmine Hamdan into the global sphere. It has Mirwais’ fingerprints all over it, and it’s hard not to make comparisons and see the record as a transliteration of Madonna’s post Ray of Light era.
“Get it Right”, the first single, is a delicious slice of electro pop served with a repeating enumeration of Arabic numbers. “Yaspop” is unlike anything ever heard before. It combines a dabke style Lebanese refrain with the most infectious of urban rhythms.
“Coit Me” is my favorite track on the album. Radiating with melancholy, the lyrics and music resemble the euphoric moment I experienced when I first heard Madonna’s “Paradise Not For Me.”