Boomkat Product Review:
So here we have it, after much anticipation, the rumour mill on overload and countless articles on Pitchfork - the sophomore effort from Maya Arulpragasam is here. With "Arular"s 'Sunshowers' and 'Galang Galang' having killed dancefloors from Hoxton to Brooklyn and the album nudging itself into the upper limits of critics' top 10 lists, there is understandably an expectation for this follow-up to measure up. Where 'Kala' succeeds first and Foremost, however, is that it isn't really that similar an album at all. It seems like M.I.A has not only been brushing up on her production skills (she has self-produced almost the entire album) but has been busy listening to a hell of a lot of 'world music', and I ain't talking about the kind of world music that you get on a cd free with the Times supplement, no this is more like the kind of skewed anti-pop music we hear repeatedly on Sublime Frequencies discs - pounding indigenous rhythms, pots and pans with broken synths, tribal chants and gorgeous feminine screams. It might seem jarring at first, but the whole album sounds like some kind of dirty mixtape from the Middle East, each track seeming to take in something totally different whether that's a sweaty underground club in Bangalore ('Birdflu'), a crunk party in Jamaica ('Hussel') or a Thai school disco ('Jimmy'). It works too, just about - it's nowhere near as instant as its predecessor but then it was never supposed to be, take a track like 'Birdflu' for instance, the first time I heard it I was surprised at how little it did for me, but then every subsequent listen has brought a little bit more out and the fact is, this sh*t works wonders on the dancefloor. Just to upset critics too, Maya has included the incredibly poor taste post-mashup of New Order's 'Blue Monday' and Pixies' 'Where is My Mind', so poor taste in fact that it works incredibly well. Mashups have been, gone, been again and gone again and what's great about this track (cunningly titled '20 Dollar') is that our protagonist is doing something totally different with the tracks, ending up with something that doesn't sound like New Order or the Pixies, it's 100% M.I.A. Purists and fanboys should know too that there ARE two Diplo-produced gems on the album ('XR2' and 'Paper Planes') and that rumoured Timbaland collaboration (no doubt fuelled by M.I.A. appearance on Timbaland's recent full-length) pops up as the record's closing track. It's hot too, a minimal, slinky slow jam for 7am when the club's winding down, just as you're watching the morning sun and smelling the drying booze of the night before - this ain't no London street though, this is music for the streets of the Middle East or the Far East and it's all the better for it. With its wealth of influence, willingness to turn the tables on the scene and almost arrogant experimentation 'Kala' is likely to alienate many fans, but listen closely and there's an album in here which is just as good, if not better than 'Arular', it just requires you to let yourself go, in every sense of the word. Who said that riot grrrl was dead? Ace.