The Maghreban Connection Zoot
Ayman Rostom has been making music under a range of guises since the mid 90s, spanning jungle, hip-hop, house and jazzy downtempo in the process. His latest LP under his best-known moniker, The Maghreban, is further evidence of a producer capable of mastering an impressive spectrum of sounds and techniques.
By the artist’s own admission, there’s no grand narrative at play on his new project, Connection: “really it’s just some deeper tracks I made that sat together well”. It’s a refreshingly unfussy mission statement in an era when record release notes invariably come packed with an overwritten sense of meaning. Not every dance music record needs to be a confessional; sometimes a pack of fresh beats is enough.
The result is a varied batch of well-produced, exploratory dance tracks. Album opener Moving is a highlight: the tough, boom-bap electro beat provides a no-nonsense backdrop for the noodling sax that runs over the top. Got Your Number, featuring Kenyan rapper Nah Eeto, creates a striking marriage of UK funky, grime and East African rap music, with a sample-heavy approach borrowed from vintage house and hip-hop production techniques.
These upbeat moments are strung together by more introspective and experimental ones. Synanon leans more into the avant-garde jazz leanings that The Maghreban’s output has always hinted at – briefly teasing a 4/4 house pulse before unravelling into discordant sax and sub-bass. The bumping, NY house-indebted Waiting is abruptly followed by Baby: a six-minute ambient synth opus that eventually climaxes into a nippy 140 bpm breakbeat rinseout. Although they are compelling as individual ideas, bundled together, the tracks are overwhelming.
By the time we reach the twinkling arpeggios of closer Moving On, it feels like we’ve listened to two or three very good The Maghreban EPs on shuffle, rather than a single, cohesive album. As a whole, Connection is a disorientating listening experience – but that’s a small price to pay for the unbridled, omnivorous creativity on display.