Meet the daring fusionists from Paris who are championing the new ‘musique de France’
When iDJ calls, Acid Arab are in the midst of a studio session, working on a remix for a forthcoming EP. Wavy ambient sounds fill the Skype call, alongside much laughter. It seems that they've got a deadline to meet, and they've been struggling to get everything done following a weekend spent performing live in London.
"It was great actually," says Herve Carvalho, who founded Acid Arab alongside Guido Minisky earlier in the decade. "We had a lot of fun with the people. There was such a nice vibe. It's the first time we've played live with this set-up. We now have more synths, more drum machines, and jam more. The tracks we play are like improvised versions of tracks from the album."
The album in question, Musique De France, is their debut album proper. It follows hot on the heels of a string of acclaimed EPs and the Acid Arab Collections compilation on Versatile Records, all of which showcased their unique and spellbinding fusions of acid house and techno electronics with traditional North African and Middle Eastern instrumentation.
"We were booked to play in North Africa a few years ago, so decided to prepare some tracks," Carvalho says, "and what we prepared worked really well. We started to find bridges between acid house and oriental music while playing. There were some similarities between acid lines and oriental instruments, especially flutes, as well as the drum fills in the TR-707 drum machine, which had parallels with North African rhythm tracks."
Their early releases, which began appearing in 2013, were heavy, wild and intense - humid and intoxicating excursions that skilfully reinvented music from the Arab world for underground house and techno dancefloors. On Musique De France, they’ve taken a step back, delivering a set of songs and instrumentals that draw on a much wider palette of influences, both western and oriental.
"The electronic sounds we mix with the oriental music is now much larger than just acid house,” Carvalho says. "In the beginning we were playing a lot of house stuff, but now we find a lot of freedom within what we do with Acid Arab. When we DJ, we play around with styles and tempos. The album is a reflection of that. It is not a four-to-the-floor set with some oriental samples. It’s a trip between a lot of tempos, beats, and a lot of electronic music."
In some ways, the project holds a mirror up to 21st Century France, and their home of Paris in particular, by melding music from the country’s long-established immigrant communities with contemporary dancefloor rhythms (and, it should be noted, nods to 80s industrial, new wave and alternative pop). Given the political climate in Europe right now, embracing and championing this culture could be seen as a bold move.
"France as a nation was built by migrant people," Carvalho asserts. "Colonial countries are like this. That’s why we called the album Musique De France. It’s not just some exotic trip, having fun with interesting sounds. All of this music we were influenced by is a big part of French culture, and our people."
Words: Matt Anniss
Musique De France is out now on Crammed Discs