The Maghreban: Afric – Zoot Records

Over the last couple of years the proper music press (as opposed to lone gunmen like myself,) have been talking up the current move towards gritty, grimy analogue House as if kids harking back to a sound that was based in the twin necessities of cheap gear and seeing what happens just for the hell of it, have reinvented the wheel. The fact that a large part of that statement is probably true says more about how staid and bland much of the scene had become (or, at least, was on its way to becoming) than it does about how revolutionary what Ben UFO termed ‘Outsider House’ actually is. I’ll be frank – I love a lot of it; I get easily bored with a lot of over processed, over produced House and Techno that aims itself squarely at the big-room bunnies. I like my music a bit frayed around the edges, a bit dirty and a bit wonky.

Lets ask ourselves a question, though: how outsider can you be when you are a part of what has become a major sub genre over the last wee while? What now defines left-field music, particularly in House and Techno which, for a long time now, has been every bit as conservative and careful as rock music?

The Maghreban’s first release from a couple of months back – the killer and off-kilter Horse/Casio – answered those questions with further riddles buried within timeless enigmas and wrapped lovingly around a brick-hard core of understanding. It was Outsider House that actually felt like it was written by an outsider; created not so much lovingly, but obsessively by a strange and heated mind with little interest in the vagaries of genre or fashion. It was a gem of weird exotica.

Afric, the still anonymous Maghreban’s follow-up record, has taken much the same formula but purified it somewhat, reworking the elements that Horse/Casio did so well until they glitter with crazed intensity under a blood-red sun. Afric itself is almost psychotic in its intent, like the soundtrack to a Hammer Horror film about a strutting cartoon cat. Peels of 70s organ and a thuggish bass hold it together with devilish glee as prowls along into a mad-eyed tribal stepper – if the tribe in question was the Manson family on Safari. Don’t let that deceive you, though: The track is proper heavy funk of a sort more timeless than the majority of modern House. I don’t imagine you are going to be hearing this in one of the prim palaces of Techno like Berghain or Fabric any time soon – but played in some subterranean sweat-box filled with like-minded souls? It’s going to wreck the joint.

Casio Remix retools the B-side from the last record, swapping out some of the expansiveness for slightly more claustrophobic tones. It’s fiercer too. Possibly more dancefloor friendly with the serial-killing bass given even more prominence than in the original mix. Here, as before, the Maghreban delights in forcing sounds into new shapes on a whim. Acrid worms of reverb tailing off into nothingness before the whole thing crumples into silence. Given it’s louche, frayed mindset, it’s a wonder it doesn’t disintegrate before then.

You want to know where Outsider House is going? well, I suspect the Maghreban doesn’t much care about telling you. But if it’s gloriously Oddball Funk you’re after, step this way, boys and girls. This is the real thing.