There is a staggering assortment of sounds and flavours to be found on Good Don’t Sleep, shades of everything from ’90s alt rock and funk metal to American country western, from ’80s pop to goth pop and numerous other bits and pieces in between. All of these are drawn in their broadest, most simple strokes, like Patrick Nagel’s women, so that, rather than the hellish, unlistenable mess a list of ingredients like the one described above should unleash upon the world, the end result is something surprisingly cohesive, capable of a great array of feelings and forms of its own.
Composed of snaking, whispering lyrics, scattered synths and guitars and an active, pulsing rhythm section, Egyptian Hip Hop‘s sound is bright with a dark sensibility, diamonds flung upon black velvet. Perhaps this can be contributed to the current economic climate, with dark clouds still covering the United States and eurozone, a miasma that has led to the increasingly Cimmerian leanings seen in all manner of music, from Clams Casino to Charli XCX. Tumultuous times and intangible enemies lead to an atmosphere of ambient angst, and there is just enough of that in Egyptian Hip Hop’s DNA. There is a whimsical factor, as well, one that runs the gamut from slightly offbeat to almost macabre, which laces the entire production with a curious sort of somnambulistic fog, adding a nice hint of irony to the album’s title. This is empty house music, an edifice filled with bauhaus furniture and cold colors, blacks and silvers and magentas and gunmetal, settling and twisting in a constant whipping wind.
Since one gets the notion that the various colours of their palette would differ greatly from listener to listener – you, tasked with creating a listing as I did above, would almost certainly find your own items to add – the band’s debut LP can perhaps best be described through kinesiology, which is to say: what actions do Egyptian Hip Hop put their sound through in its various incarnations? The differences between the songs primarily lie in their speed and ferocity; most all of them move, but it is distinctly in which way that they move that makes each piece unique. Good Don’t Sleep begins benignly enough, with opener ‘Tobago’ plinking and sputtering like a jammed pinball machine with a slinking bass line behind it, a solid composition with a liquid spine. In juxtaposition, ‘The White Falls’ sounds like a drawn and quartered fairy tale before opening into a more sweeping expanse of jangling cascades and vocals that switch between bobbing along the roiling surface and catapulting meekly above the fray. ‘Pearl Sound’ is a spiritual cousin to ‘The White Falls,’ presenting the same feel of cascading motion with a more unified sense of purpose, like a busy canvas where all the brush strokes go one way.
Compared to their rollicking brethren, long form numbers ‘Snake Lane West’ and ‘One Eyed King’ come across as baroque and syrupy, elongated, loping creatures – ‘Snake’ in particular, whose opening sounds like a prog rock fever dream – which seem to ooze rather than flow. Both run a bit too long for their own good, but of the two ‘Snake’ is the more disconcerting, lacking the congealing nature and smoldering qualities found on ‘King.’ Standing alone on the album, delicately swaggering outlier ‘Alaron’ saunters like a veil in a shoot out, tenuous with its chest puffed.
The strongest moments on Good Don’t Sleep come from the most accessible, pop-leaning songs, ‘Yoro Dialio’ and ‘SYH.’ The former sounds something like a halazone Mars Volta, with notes that dance and rotate, complex pieces in a simple form that give way to a catchy hook, deeply heaving breathy exhalations. ‘SYH’ is the most approachable song on the album, a satisfyingly thick composition that adds a goth pop lacquer to organic structures and features two arresting suites, one a well crafted break down and the other a bizarre post-apocolyptic dystopian funk closing, Axel F-cum-Akira.
Good Don’t Sleep is at the same time suitable for an especially hep dance floor of red lipstick and black hats or a flophouse evening laid out on PCP; it is an altogether uneven album that finds not an inconsiderable amount of its charm in that very unevenness.
Listen to Good Don't Sleep