WHO IS HE? The Syrian wedding singer, farmer and international dance-music phenom who never seems to be seen or photographed without his trademark headscarf, dark glasses and moustache — though if I’m being honest, even after seeing him live I’m still not 100% convinced his entire career isn’t one incredibly elaborate Sacha Baron Cohen performance.
WHAT IS THIS? His ninth North American release (the first five were compiled from hundreds of live tapes released in his homeland) and second issued by Diplo’s Mad Decent label — which should tell you how hip this guy is if nothing else does.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? The coolest (if not only) Syrian dance album you’re likely to hear this year, Shlon fuses slinky Middle Eastern belly-dance grooves and traditional instruments with thumping techno beats and synthesizers. Meanwhile, grainy-voiced baritone Souleyman is supposedly singing love poetry penned by collaborator Moussa Al Mardood, though I’m gonna have to take their word on that.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Cultural Exchange.
WHEN SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? In America: Only when you’re sure nobody from Homeland Security or ICE can hear you. In the rest of the world: Anytime, anywhere.
WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Exotic, hypnotic, multicultural, invigorating, feverish, propulsive, celebratory, intricate, passionate, intoxicating.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? The slinky title track, the stomper Shi Tridin, the relentlessly driving Layle.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘Too bad we didn’t play this at Thanksgiving dinner every time Grandpa started ranting about immigrants.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? So often that your neighbours will start to wonder — or come by to ask where they can download it.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE AN INTOXICANT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Something smoked through a hookah.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Think globally, buy totally.