It's all true, but the backstory for Fatima Al Qadiri undeniably reads like a music journalist's wet dream. Born in Senegal and raised by Russian-educated parents in Kuwait (although she summered in the UK), Al Qadiri eventually wound up in Brooklyn, where she's been involved in New York City's art world for several years as a photographer and visual artist. In her free time, she pens the Global. WAV blog for DIS magazine, highlighting a variety of obscure sounds from around the planet. Oh, yeah, Al Qadiri also happens to make music, both under her own name and as Ayshay, her more experimental project that's signed to Tri Angle, utilizes nothing but manipulations of her own voice, and takes inspiration from traditional Muslim worship songs. Now, she's offering up the Genre-Specific Xperience EP, an effort that "showcases five new pieces of music that each reinterpret five sub-genres of dance music: juke, hip hop, dubstep, electro-tropicalia, and '90s Gregorian trance." If that's not enough, the EP's release party is happening today at New York's New Museum. When it comes to musical resumes, this one certainly sounds pretty amazing, but it also begs the question: Is the music actually any good?
As it turns out, the answer is a pretty emphatic "yes." It's rare than an artist can take a disparate list of genre influences—all of them heavily namechecked in various tastemaking circles—and distill them into anything resembling a cohesive, let alone quality, statement, but that's exactly what Al Qadiri has done. Perhaps the most interesting element of Genre-Specific Xperience is its unbashed referencing of '90s new age; while musicians talking about how Enya and Gregorian chants are really cool might sound fashionably postmodern in interviews, Al Qadiri has effectively weaved elements—if not outright samples—of '90s new-age staples like Enigma and Chant into her production. Opening track "Hip Hop Spa" smartly pairs bits of chanting with steel-drum melodies and relaxed drum-machine percussion, a formula built upon by "D-medley," which folds some trance-flavored synths into the equation. "Vatican Vibes" takes things even further, stepping up the drama, the energy level, and, most importantly, the percussion to create one of the EP's obvious high points.
While nothing on Genre-Specific Xperience exactly screams "club track," the EP's remaining cuts, "How Can I Resist U" and "Corpcore," are harder-edged and most closely resemble something suitable for the dancefloor. The former is anchored by stuttering snares, tweaked vocal samples, and thick, lurching bass tones, while the later kicks off with a machine-gun procession of drum sounds and marinates in the lower end of the sonic spectrum. Al Qadiri may have a short discography, but with Genre-Specific Xperience, she proves herself to be quite adept when it comes to sound quality. Her EP sounds incredibly clean, as she's eschewed the lo-fi aesthetic championed by many of her bedroom-producer contemporaries and instead crafted something that borders on pristine. The drum sounds do lack a bit of needed punch, but the music sounds epic nonetheless, even when only a few aural elements are at play. It's also surprisingly welcoming, as there is nothing particularly weird or difficult about Genre-Specific Xperience, even if Al Qadiri's recipe for constructing it was rather complex. It's unequivocally forward, but it's also something that wouldn't sound out of place in a suburban yoga studio or high-end spa. Somehow, by cribbing notes from across the musical, cultural, and geographical map, Al Qadiri has stumbled upon a universal sound.