Boomkat Product Review:
Electronic prism-pusher Zuli explores themes of identity, both hyperlocal and global, in ‘Terminal’; his singular and definitive artistic statement for Lee Gamble’s UIQ.
Expanding his sound to encompass melancholic ambient composition and grimy rap from prominent MC, Abyusif, as well as newcomers Abanoub, Mado $am and R-Rhyme, and mysterious Mecca-based vocalist MSYLMA, ‘Terminal’ finds Zuli drawing upon a multiplicity of personal experiences in a concerted effort to upend preconceptions of what an Egyptian artist “should” sound like.
In Zuli’s own words: “In a world that feels like it’s regressing into tribalism, many of us who don’t fit into any one specific group identity feel sidelined at best. When people talk to me, whether it be the press or peers in the scene I operate in, I am often approached with a preconceived notion of pretty much everything from my influences to and tastes to my politics and lifestyle, solely based on my nationality. It is a caricature that has proven very marketable, one that makes for a more interesting read/conversation/booking, apparently, than a multi-faceted (hence unique) human personality just like each and every one of us.”
Across the 14 tracks of ‘Terminal’, he smartly unpackages and dissolves those lazy pre- or misconceptions by forming his own, syncretic musical language. Meshing the rhythmic grammar of hip hop and club styles with the Arabic dialects of his MCs and vocalist and the free syntax of ambient music, he dissolves and undermines outmoded ideas of exotification, presenting an image of himself that’s more akin to the reality of Cairo and the sci-fi idea of P.K.D’s scramble suits than any cliche conjured by music media.
With controlled aggression and a grasp of chaos, Zuli serves big highlights in vocal pieces such as the opener ‘Nari’, featuring all the MCs entangled in a noxious noise rap clash, which smartly contrasts the haunting plangency of MSYLMA’s lament on ‘Kollu I-Joloud’. But the vocal only account for half of the album, and Zuli really comes into his own on cuts such as the sparring grime instrumental ‘Bump’ and the sawn-off junglism ‘Wreck’, as well as the album’s more delirious moments, like the poly-chromatic designs of ‘He’s Hearing Voices’ and the heat-warped geolocators diffused into the ambient keen and astral jazz flourishes of ‘Follow Your Breath’.