Was it so long ago that hip music prognosticators proclaimed electronica as the new musical form that was going to render rock and roll, jazz, etc. irrelevant? Still, although it never caught on in America like it did in England, the genre has refused to crumple in the trend-end of history's dustbin along with the Macarena and the retro-swing Cocktail Nation; its more creative auteurs refuse to settle into the anonymity of soulless techno or ambient chillout haze.

Take Badawi, born Raz Mesinai in Israel and now based in New York City. By combining "live" instruments with the sound-warping techniques of the mixing board, Badawi weaves the traditional Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms he embraced in his youth into a web of Hebraic spirituality, dub, and rock. It's a scintillating, vibrant, and most important, varied sonic tapestry that is anything but an exercise in abstract "ambience."

No, the ambience here is very immediate: Doug Wieselman's warm clarinet adds relish, while Marc Ribot's taut, buzzing guitar adds cinematic edge to the undulating, hypnotic "The Circle." That's immediately followed by the stormy bluster of "Battle Cry," where Ribot lets loose a few bolts of feedback-drenched metallic lightning over galloping, relentless drumming. Think of it as a teaser for Badawi's next opus, which, judging from Clones and False Prophets, should give us something to (really) look forward to in this election year.


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