AraabMuzik makes hip-hop that, heard from any other vantage point, sounds nothing like hip-hop. He made his name as a producer for the credentialed likes of Cam’ron and Jim Jones, but the tracks on his own debut album sound more like…trance? Phantasmagoric pop? Accidental overlays resulting from different YouTube-playing browser windows fighting to be heard, at once? It’s a strange sound. But it’s also immensely appealing and approachable, as evidenced by an opening track, that sounds like something wafting in from a celestial radio station that you happened upon while fantasizing about warm turquoise beaches and expensive moisturizer. That song is a good example of the trance element that figure into much of Electronic Dream and its suggestively reworked samples of tracks crafted for glitzy dance clubs. “Streetz Tonight” sounds like an anthem longing for vocals by Kylie Minogue, and a host of widescreen ambient washes and strobed sound-effects abound.
But AraabMuzik is dark, too, especially as the album soldiers on and details of its tweaking begin to accrue. “Free Spirit” features a creeping, martial beat that insinuates its way through most of Electronic Dream with a dry, rustling insistence that is hard to shake. “Underground Stream” forgoes subtlety and turns into a soundtrack for a bleak rave, full of dripping faces and menacing stares (sampled sounds include chilling screams and an eerie invocation of “death and putrefaction.”) That it all holds together is testament to an aesthetic that is more agile and active than it initially seems. AraabMuzik’s drums sound good and distinctive, scratchy and textural and somehow seemingly impatient in places. And his command of all that goes on over-top adds to a sound more complex than simple pleasures could summon on their own.