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Nettle - El Resplandor: The Shining in Dubai

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Artist: Nettle

Album: El Resplandor: The Shining in Dubai

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: Jan. 16, 2012

The Shining in Dubai.” The idea sounds like a Kickstarter campaign, and almost as ridiculous as Stephen King’s forthcoming sequel to his best novel. DJ /rupture (a.k.a. Jace Clayton) came up with the concept after seeing some of the many palatial hotels of Dubai, thinking they would make a great jumping-off point for a meditation on globalization’s baroque tendencies and psychological alienation (as well as an excuse for Clayton to get away from simply "doing beats"). Clayton has long been reporting firsthand on global music culture, both through his Mudd Up! blog and radio show. He’s even convinced us that AutoTune is a good thing. If anyone can make this concept fly, it’s Clayton.

And fly it does, for the most part. Surprisingly, Nettle sticks to almost classic soundtrack moves, with lots of strings and voice and some digital treatments, and eschews any overt cultural hybrids and mash-ups (and, it should be noted, zero reference to the original soundtrack). The themes are bold and simple, at times echoing some of John Zorn’s soundtrack work from the 1990s: terse and melodic, drawing on those minor modes that came out of the clash of West and the Middle East. There’s no percussion, so the rhythmic impetus is left to the strings and the contrasts provided by the sparing digital filters, delays and the occasional sample.

The imaginary soundtrack conceit is not by any stretch a new one, but Clayton and Co. put a fresh spin on it. They’re not so much remaking the soundtrack as suggesting what a modern re-make might sound like, what it might emphasize. More than the horror and thriller aspects the film revelled in, it’s the isolation and psychological effect of space that Nettle evokes.

At just over 30 minutes, El Resplandor does feel slight in places, but its concision and clarity help turn it into an insightful perspective, one that is similar to Clayton’s own: explore culture clash and synthesis without knee-jerk critique or celebration. Understand that there will be friction, as well as space for possibility, even in unlikely, seemingly impossible combinations.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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