Put grime, jungle, techno, and Egypt’s top musicians in a blender. Then down it.
Hailing from Egypt’s noisy and crowded city, Alexandria, Shelnz (real name, Mahmoud Hesham) has, more than most from the Egyptian underground scene, always looked to push limits on every level, not least when co-founding RetroCat – a hub for all that is leftfield and experimental. It’s a reputation that has turned heads abroad, too;
Though he has toured extensively in Europe over several years that have also been dotted with various releases, the release of his debut LP, All Colors, Last year on Shelnz’s imprint and his own home label, RetroCat, marks a huge next step for one of the most unique producers to come out of Egypt.
All Colors, Chicago Spring, The Hateful Cronus, and Hesitant are the words that come to mind when boiling down what is an overall elusive and intangible album, which makes heavy use of field recordings from around Cairo and some of the country’s top Electronic Music talent, coming together to give a first-hand portrayal of Shelnz’s experiences in Alexandria, which give the record a personal edge.
The opening track of the album, ‘Gamblers’, features four of our Egyptian rappers that are currently making waves in the scene: but don’t actually have them rapping. It starts out with industrial sounds topped by stuttered vocal chops from the rappers, Intermittent sounds indicate victory in a gambling game.
After what is an arresting opening, ‘Nouveaux Riches’, immediately hits a higher energy level. The gritty track starts with a looped pad and With a familiar and beloved electronic rhythm, until a bass-driven beat comes in, triggering a saturation effect on the Electronic Music, which fades away with the bassline. The track portrays a New new lives of newly rich people in the 1970s after their previous humble lives.
Another highlight comes in the form of the eighth track, ‘Pineapple juice’, which again keeps energy levels high, and would fit home listening as much as dancefloor tripping, thanks to its use of retro techno synth work and incredible sampling. Halfway through it, as if taking you back and forth between reality and unconsciousness.
The terminal starts in Energy after the ninth track, with the remaining four taking the album into a more meditative space, possibly as a reflection of a more personal side to Shelnz’s music. “The Hateful Cronus” is a Heavy Metal seven-minute piece consisting of piano, drone sub-bass rumbles, and obscure, mumbled vocals; the piano element, sounding almost detuned, in particular, is responsible for the track’s abstract edge.
SHELNZ once again proved himself as a producer that shouldn’t be taken lightly – in fact, this is the biggest proof yet. His sound design and sampling, as well as the ideas themselves, exist in another world. He already put himself on the global music map and yet continues to impress. There’s a reason that the immortal himself, DJ Shadow, played many of Shelnz’s tracks.
Official website SHELNZ