John Caramanica reviewed Fatima Al Qadiri's new release Desert Strike today in the New York Times. Given the subject matter and its stylistic connections to grime, I of course immediately purchased it. I'm not entirely convinced that it does all that Caramanica claims it does. It's good but I don't find it so "morose, ominous, moving" as JC. I don't hear "Ghost Raid" quite as "nihilistic" as he does. The "hints of grime" on "Hydra" are too weak for me. It's true that "Oil Well" is "littered with the sounds of weapons being cocked and emptied" but given that the EP is meant, according to JC, to be "a conversation piece about war," I want it to be "grimier." I want it to convey much more of the horror and the blood and guts. Especially after Gaza.
Louis Pattison also reviewed Al Qadiri's EP for The Guardian last Friday. There we learn that Al Qadiri was raised in Kuwait, that she used to play a Megadrive game called "Desert Strike: Return To The Gulf" when she was 10, in 1992, just two year after the Iraqi invasion. She now lives in Brooklyn. (Of course!).
I think Pattison overplays the "horrors" evoked by Al Qadiri's music as much as Caramanica does. But Pattison did alert me to a much more interesting piece of music that reflects much more vividly on the interconnections between war, video games, and drones: Montreal producer d'Eon's "Kill a Man with a Dronestick in Your Hand."
I find the video and the song to be quite riveting. It's electronic, it opens with some great, electronically altered oud playing (perhaps played by d'Eon), then shifts to a slow dance beat. The sing-songy lyrics are a bit hard for me to catch because the voice is slightly modified through electronics. But it's a very simple and clever rhyme scheme where all the lines rhyme with Man and Hand. Thus: Taliban, Pakistan, etc. Two lines I can catch are "Kill a man far away in Pakistan" and "There's no blood on your hand."
The video mixes images of what appears to be the men and women who sit in rooms in the US and guide the drones to their targets; video footage of "real" drone strikes from above and on-the-ground; video games that simulate drone war; a woman in a very short skirt dancing; scenes of the Taliban flogging a prisoner, and so on. Sometimes it's not clear whether you're watching video games or "real" war scenes.
You can watch the vid below. You can buy the song (well worth it) from iTunes and, no doubt, other venues. d'Eon records on the Hippos in Tanks label. "Kill a Man with a Dronestick in Your Hand is from his album Palinopsia. (In 2011 d'Eon recorded a split 12" with the fabulous Grimes, called Darkbloom. For the record, Grimes has been kufiyaspotted.)
d'Eon "Kill a Man With a Joystick In Your Hand" from OLDE ENGLISH SPELLING BEE on Vimeo.