As the ever-impressive Hyperdub label celebrates its 10th anniversary, it shows no sign of slack or complacency. Asiatisch, the debut album from globally inspired Fatima Al Qadiri, shows the label’s continuing insistence on depth and quality. After a series of stellar EPs for UNO and Fade To Mind, Al Qadiri set her sights on the album format. Opting to explore an imagined China, Al Qadiri crafted Asiatisch (from the German word for Asian), building on her ghostly palette of sounds and adding in a series of synthetic eastern arrangements and tropes.
It's an album that confounds the listener right from the word go. ‘Shanzhai (For Shanzhai Biennial)’ opens the release, an unsettlingly cover of Sinead O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U' sung in an imaginary version of Mandarin that features the vocals of Hong Kong rock star Helen Feng. MIDI vocals and tubular synth patches abound, as do robotic voices that speak in corrupted tongue (‘Wudang’, ‘Loading Beijing’) and remind listeners of Disney’s questionable racial inclusions (‘Dragon Tattoo’). ‘Szechuan’ and 'Shanghai Freeway' see Al Qadiri at her most familiar, those shimmering xylophone-esque arpeggios and bombastic horn-like basslines reminiscent of tracks like ‘Oil Well’ and ‘Hip-Hop Spa’. Each track falls down a rabbit hole of reverb and eastern promise, as crashing gongs lend portent and excitement. Concept albums can often lack energy and excitement, but with Asiatisch Fatima Al Qadiri has managed to provide listeners with a fascinating journey into an imagined reality while providing irresistible grooves and thrilling electronic pulses.