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January 11, 2005 - Image 8

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-11

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Tuesday
January 11,2005
arts.michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

r1e Stdrig n
ART s

8

..... . . ......

I I

JARED
NEWMAN

EA $ports takes over

SAM SHALABI COMBINES ARAB AND WE

By Andrew Gaerig
Daily Music Editor
Osama "Sam" Shalabi's musical background, a
hodgepodge of noisy punk rock, traditional Ara-
bic instrumentals and formal jazz training, is as

eclectic as one might expect
from an Egyptian-Canadian
Montreal dweller. Shalabi,
who has thrilled underground
audiences for years with his
unique brand of experimen-
tal instrumental music under
the Shalabi Effect moniker,
will be undertaking a differ-
ent type of project entirely to
help kick off the University's
semester highlighting Middle
Eastern cultures. Tomorrow

Sam Shalabi:
The Osama
Project
Wednesday
at 8 p.m.
$20 at the door
At the Lydia
Mendelssohn Theatre

playing guitar for a while." Shalabi's affection for
Arabic music comes as no surprise for those famil-
iar with his work through the Shalabi Effect. He
and his group of rotating musicians have produced
largely improvised, minimalist post-rock since
2000. In 2002, The Trial of St. Orange established
Shalabi as an avant-garde composer and performer,
mixing swampy guitar textures with vague Middle
Eastern modes, leading the thrilling climaxes. Last
year's Pink Abyss saw Shalabi and his cohorts shift
to more structured compositions, albeit still well
within the realm of underground rock.
"The Osama Project," which, it should be noted,
has no relation to Shalabi's Osama album, is a dif-
ferent beast entirely. Described by Shalabi as "fake
Egyptian classical music," the project takes advan-
tage of the musician's lesser-known talents. "When
I started playing music I was already writing prose
and stories which I stopped doing eight or nine
years ago. This is the third or fourth time that I've
done something using a lot of characters or using
different voices like this," said Shalabi, referring
prior narrative-driven, live performances.
And while the prerecorded material consists
mostly of familiar symphonic instruments, Shala-
bi's background - both as a purveyor of Arabic
music and as an avant-garde musician - comes
into play. The canoon, comparable to a hammer
dulcimer, the darbuka, a percussion instrument and
strings and violins, which he considers traditional
Arabic instruments, all make appearances, though
Shalabi admitted to "screwing around" quite a bit.
"A lot of this has been processed. There's darbuka,

Courtesy
of UMS
Guitarists
get all the
W_ _ _ chicks.
STERN INFLUENCES
but you won't hear it. You won't go 'Oh, that's a
darbuka.' "
Shalabi, however, isn't worried that this music
will fly over the heads of his indie rock fan base.
"You could play a toy piano and that might be lost on
someone, too," he said. "I don't really care if people
are educated that I'm using ethnic instruments (as
long as) it's interesting or it works as music."
Shalabi is also not worried about carrying the
flag for any sort of ethnic music. "I think with a lot
of Arabic music, the stuff that's really interesting
is really raunchy and very Arabic, but I'think for
a lot of Western audiences, the presupposition by
people who are presenting this music is that some-
how they have to sanitize it and make it palatable
in some mysterious way so that a Western audience
can digest it," he said. "It's the worst of both worlds
because you end up getting this gross version of
whatever indigenous music it is, and somehow you
get the worst version of Western music. It has more
to do with politics and economics than music."
Instead, Shalabi has chosen to integrate his
many musical interests into a vibrant, exciting and
inarguably modern sound. "It's like (early 20th
century delta blues singer) Charley Patton. I love
Patton, but I would never do anything like that.
I'd look like an idiot. I don't know how to do it,
and it's been done. You get the inspiration from
that stuff." "The Osama Project" will incorporate
many of Shalabi's diverse inspirations. And given
his history of unique, forward-thinking composi-
tions, Shalabi is far more likely to transcend past
icons than copy them.

For a while now, I've had a feel-
ing that Electronic Arts was
pure evil. I first became suspi-
cious with their willingness to send
free video games to the Daily. Their
liberal spending in the PR depart-
ment seemed odd when compared to
other companies, but I brushed it off
as a good marketing tactic because
no publicity is bad publicity. Then
I noticed a blurb on Slashdot.org,
reporting that EA had placed a "now
hiring" billboard nearly 100 meters
from a rival company in Vancou-
ver. Again, I figured it was no big
deal. The scheme seemed sinister,
but could easily be ignored by those
employees loyal enough to the other
company.
Then, memos from EA's manage-
ment started leaking. Tales of 90-
hour work weeks and sweatshop-like
environments abound, and angry
programmers everywhere weigh-
ing in on the ethical treatment of
their kind. Yet, the employees know
going in that they have one year to
complete each iteration of "Mad-
den" or "NBA Live" - deadlines
can't be pushed back.
But then, Gamespot.com reported
an exclusive licensing agreement
between Electronic Arts and the
NFL. For the next five years, EA has
the sole rights to the players, teams
and stadiums of the NFL in video
games. With this deal, EA pretty
much wipes out its competitors.
Let's face it - sports games that
use fake team and player names do
have old-school charm (remember
"RBI Baseball?"), but they can't sell
in today's market. So say goodbye to
the "ESPN NFL" series, its budget
price of $20 and any sort of market
competition. EA reigns as the Demon
Lord of the video game domain and
all they have to do to sell next year's
"Madden" title is update the rosters
and get a few more quotes from dear
old John Madden himself. "Biff,
Whap, Doink" indeed, Johnny.
As upset as I am about this deal,
I'm a little more shaken by the cold
truth that I've been hiding from for
a long time: Video games are big
business now. Just like sports, we
can all reflect on the times when it
was a just a game, not some blazer-
sporting businessman's money-mak-
ing scheme. But as websites like
IGN and Gamespot start including
quarterly sales figures of Nintendo

and Sony in their news updates, the
truth only becomes more apparent,
even as I try to ignore it.
The overabundance of sequels
and rehashes are an indicator of this
reality. A colleague of mine at the
Daily recently asked me what was
the last good original game I played.
I couldn't remember. I'm looking
at my collection right now and I
don't see a single new idea among
them. "Mario Kart 3," "Silent Hill
4," "Mortal Kombat 6," "Mega Man
Anniversary Collection." Here I am
complaining about how video games
are a business and how money-hun-
gry suit guys are squashing creativ-
ity, and yet I seem to be the biggest
sequel-whore of them all.
Despite the fact that I might be on
my way to Video Game Hell, I've
done good deeds by trying to push
video games as an art form. They're
beautifully crafted, constantly
evolving and some of them even
have that misd-en-scene that the
film theorists love to chew on. But
like film and music, video games
are now running into the same art
vs. business problems that have
plagued those industries for years.
Does a developer push a new idea or
take the easy road by squeezing out
a sequel? Usually, they're pressured
into using familiar video game for-
mulas instead of finding new ones.
It's not quite the same as pushing
avant-garde or other creative ideas
away from mainstream music and
film, but it's pretty close.
After all this complaining, what
do I suggest as a solution? Think
about purchasing a wholly original
title instead of another rehash like
"Metroid Prime 2." I hear that "Kat-
amari Damacy" is fantastic, and it's
a game where players roll around
as a pile of everyday objects, add-
ing to their pile by rolling over more
stuff.
I'm not going to urge anyone to
boycott EA, but when next year's
"Madden" installment comes
around, consider that since no com-
petition is forcing them to try any-
thing innovative, the new version
might not be all that different from
the game you already own.
- Jared is too busy playing video
games to actually make human con-
tact. Maybe you can be his friend. E-
mail him at jnewman@mich.edu.

night at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, Shalabi
will be performing "The Osama Project," a com-
bination of prerecorded, electronically manipulated
symphonic music and a nonlinear narrative depict-
ing an invented Jewish/Arab relationship. Over the
recording, Shalabi will play the oud, a Middle East-
ern descendent of the lute.
"My dad is a huge lover of Arabic music. Growing
up he had literally thousands of albums in our base-
ment and he would blast this stuff all the time," said
Shalabi. "I wasn't really into it as a kid, but later as
a birthday present he gave me an oud after I'd been

Lusine joins Ann Arbor label, yet 'Hodgepodge' a mixed bag

By Puja Kumar
Daily Arts Writer
It appears that Jeff Mcllwain is
cleaning up his act. Dropping the
names L'usine and
Lusine Icl in favor Lusine
of Lusine and
landing on repu- Serial Hodgepodge
tably adept Ann Ghostly International
Arbor-based label
Ghostly Interna-
tional suggest a move toward sim-

plicity. What Lusine has delivered,
however, is a hodgepodge - though
a very carefully constructed one. The
latest release by this Seattle-based
Texas producer, Serial Hodgepodge,
offers 11 tracks whose variety make
genre-stamping impossible. Equally
meticulous production, however,
offers a mature cohesion that lets the
album escape a variety-show feel.
Serial Hodgepodge is not Mcll-
wain's first full-length. He released
albums on imprints Isophlux and
Hymen, but this is his first major
release on Ghostly and his most

accomplished work so far. The
album's opener, "Ask You," displays
a beautiful chorus of processed femi-
nine vocals that, when accompa-
nied by acute beats, set the tone of
Lusine's unique tendency to combine
delicacy with substance. The subtle
suggestion of hip hop in this track is
more piquantly reflected in "Every-
thing Under The Sun," a laid-back
song with wavelike chords that add
splashes of ambience to the consis-
tent groove.
The female vocals from "Ask You"
resurface on the fourth track, "The
Stop," but the effect this time is more
stimulating than ethereal - this song
showcases McIlwain's ability to pro-
duce house. The minimalism can at

first feel underwhelmingly anticli-
mactic, but a closer listen reveals a
pregnant, intense rhythm that makes
the song more interesting than a lot
of house music.
The penultimate track "Figment"
is close to exciting. Lively drops of
machine noise keep the listener's
ears perked, but these pieces of aural
pleasure are unfortunately delivered
over an almost stagnantly standard
beat. The glitches and hiccups pres-
ent in this song and others throughout
the album are punctuated by moody,
pensive tracks, like "Drip" and the
closer, "Payne's Gray," whose static
sound and monotony offer ambient
intermissions.
Neatness of production is the great-

est strength of Serial Hodgepodge.
Mcllwain leaves no jagged corners or
awkward gaps in any of the tracks; in
fact, it is the clean, tightly produced
finish that allows the album to be
something more than a scattered col-
lection.
Of course, there are cons to Mcll-
wain's ambitions to experiment with
genre. He is clearly skilled in differ-
ent areas - house, experimental hip
hop, IDM - but one album simply
can't offer space to overtly stand out
in one genre. Such diversity could
also distract McIlwain from honing
a specific sound and leave him less
defined than some of his label mates
(Matthew Dear, Midwest Product).
These dangers arise only out of well-

A

The University of Michigan College of Literature, Science,
and the Arts presents a public lecture and reception

versed skill, though whatever direc-
tion Lusine is going to steer in next,
Serial Hodgepodge proves that there
will be no trouble getting there.

James W. Allen
Joaquin M. Luttinger
Collegiate Professor of Physics

Yung Wun's debut fails to
live up to high expectations
Daily Arts Writer

Yung Wun has been pushed hard by the Ruff Ryder
crew ever since appearing alongside Snoop Dogg,
Jadakiss and Scarface on "W WIII" off 2000's Ryde
or Die Vol. 2 compilation. Expectations only rose
for the talented M.C. after being signed to producer
Swizz Beatz's Full Surface label
but unfortunately Yung Wun's Yung Wun
debut album just doesn't live up
to the hype. There are a few good The Dirtiest,
tracks on Dirtiest, Thirstiest, but Thirstiest
they only serve to throw the bad J Records/D'Society/

6

~w. ' Y

i

___

"° - V \.. -

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