On paper Rainbow Arabia sounds just fascinating. They’re a U.S. art/electronica/dance group with heavy Arabic and African music influences (apparently Syrian singer Omar Souleyman in particular). But in practice, the band is maybe a little less than fascinating.
Rainbow Arabia has churned out a few decent singles across their two recordings so far, The Basta EP and Kabukimono EP, most notably “Holiday in Congo” and “Omar K.” Now on their first proper full-length, Boys and Diamonds, the band’s oddball formula is truly put to the test.
The first song and title track, “Boys and Diamonds” jumps right into it. We’re greeted to the album with what seems to be African chanting, a wandering lead and some sporadic synth. The song is good, but it doesn’t really seem to have any kind of direction (remember this, it’s important). As the record goes on, a familiar pattern emerges: jangling exotic drums, some kind of simple synth lead and disorganized vocals, all mashed together to form some sort of jam.
And “jam” is the operative word here, as the electronica/dance vibe is jammed together with the foreign influences in often uncomfortable and confusing ways. It’s like their intentions are pure, but they just don’t know how to juggle everything. But what saves Rainbow Arabia, and what has saved them before, is their knack for general song writing. They still manage to make moderately catchy songs you can nod along with and maybe even dance to!
But it’s hard to get over this whole lack of direction thing. As a lover of music, I can appreciate the band’s effort to make something different and unique. As a critic of music, I can’t ignore the fact that most songs don’t really go anywhere at all. They offer a few glimpses at their local and foreign influences but can’t seem to make an interesting and captivating album out of it all. I’m not disappointed, Rainbow Arabia! I’m just a little confused.
Boys and Diamonds is out now. Buy it at Kompakt.