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Hanni El Khatib | Flight

The L.A. rocker spreads his wings on his high-flying fifth studio release.

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Burnout can be your Santa Claus. Just look at Hanni El Khatib. Back in 2017, after burning the candle at both ends for too many years, the L.A. garage-rocker went on a long-overdue hiatus from music in general and touring in specific. Now, he’s rested, rejuvenated and back in action — but with a new battle plan. After holing up in his home studio and teaming up with producer Leon Michels, El Khatib spreads his wings with the fittingly titled Flight, his fifth and freakiest release. Fashioned from bits and pieces and grooves samples that were created, collected and cobbled together, it’s a high-flying set of short, sharp, shapeshifting and surprisingly groovy tracks more reminiscent of Beck or the Beasties than bare-bones, bare-knuckle indie-rock. Granted, with the whole 13-track set barely breaking the half-hour mark, the disc may be a little too short and sharp — a few of these songs feel more like exercises or experiments than songs destined for the stage. But since it’s not like he’s going to be playing them anywhere for the near future, what’s the diff? He can cross that bridge when he comes to it. For the moment, just let El Khatib enjoy his Flight of fancy.

THE PRESS RELEASE: “What would eventually become Hanni El Khatib’s fifth studio album, the virtuosic but characteristically raw Flight, began as spontaneous experimentation. Over the last several years, El Khatib had become close friends with Leon Michels, best known as the mastermind of the soul controllers, the El Michels Affair, but who has also quietly racked up producer credits for the likes of pop juggernauts like Lana Del Rey, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, and Eminem — as well as frequently working in sessions with Grammy-winning super-producer Mark Ronson. At first, their jams were intended as riffs and breaks for other producers to sample, but quickly, El Khatib decided to say fuck the middleman. Why create samples, when they could create the entire beat themselves? The process unfolded casually and organically. El Khatib took a few trips to Michels’ studio in upstate New York, and when Michels would come to L.A. to produce the new Chicano Batman record or to work with Ronson, he’d steal away an afternoon to help create Flight. The finished result is a rollicking sampledelic opus that recalls the beautiful chaos that the Dust Brothers created on Paul’s Boutique and Odelay. Or maybe the euphoric bricolage of The AvalanchesSince I Left You crossed with the aggrieved darkness of the early Prodigy. Of course, it’s all filtered through the singular style that El Khatib has developed over the previous 10 years. Take a song like Room, the first finished song on the album. Built off a scuzzy drum break and hypnotic pianos, the pair of El Khatib and Michels recorded it live to tape, then sampled it through outboard gear into the computer a la Portishead. Then they put it in Ableton, chopped the hell out of it, re-edited it and stitched back together into a collage. It’s the type of thing that Dilla and Madlib would’ve created if they had come up on The Cramps.”