A bunch of high-profile cameos festoon the U.S. debut album by the Israeli production crew Soulico
—including Ghostface, Rye Rye, Lyrics Born, and Del the Funky Homosapien—but frankly, they really aren’t needed. The music on Exotic on the Speaker
(JDub) traffics in club-oriented hip-hop bangers, with the Tel Aviv foursome liberally drawing upon samples of Middle Eastern sounds, you know, for that regional flavor. The various singers and MCs who have a connection to the Middle East—Balkan Beat Box
front man Tomer Yosef, Oren Barzilay, and Axum, who’s performing with the group tonight in their cover-free Chicago debut at the Empty Bottle
—pack the most punch, fitting in easily with Soulico’s Mediterranean party vibe.
Either because they’re only concerned with rocking the party or because they’re just not very original, Soulico’s music ultimately doesn’t cut too deep. The production is solid, but it’s marred by a commercial veneer and the regional samples are little more than “exotic” spices. Even when live oud playing turns up on a track, as it does on “S.O.S.,” it’s strictly window dressing.
Also performing with Soulico tonight is Chicago’s own MC Zulu
, who appears on their track “Queen of Hearts.” The Panama-reared, jet setting Zulu
—who’s known best for his ongoing work with Montreal DJ and producer Poirier
(nee Ghislain Poirier)—released a full-length album this past summer with New York producer David Last
. Zulu’s hectoring dancehall baritone sounds great on Musically Massive
(Staubgold), routinely dominating the hardest of beats even though his partner’s twitchy if lightweight amalgam of techno, dancehall, electro, and hip-hop fails to match the appealing severity of MC’s flow.
Soulico photo: Guy Pitchon
Jono El Grande, Neo Dada (Rune Grammofon)
Tom Chant, Angharad Davies, Benedict Drew & John Edwards, Decentred (Another Timbre)
Omer Klein, Heart Beats (Smalls)
Ana Lúcia, Canta Triste (RGE/Som Livre)
Gebhard Ullmann, Don’t Touch My Music, Vols. 1 and 2 (Not Two)