Clap! Clap!: Tayi Bebba (Black Acre)
Digi G’Alessio (né Cristiano Crisci) is the Italian producer behind Clap! Clap!, his nom de musique here being an ironic spin on Italian pop singer Gigi D’Alessio. Tayi Bebba marks Crisci’s full-length debut, following up the EPs the label released previously. Both releases marry interesting elements of bass music with generous sampling of traditional African music. Taken at face value, Tayi Bebba is a total delight to listen to — while I don’t have much context for the source material and its origins, the general vibe of Tayi Bebba is one of deep reverence to this music, taking sounds and songs and voices and instruments that Crisci found inspiring and reworking them with clever use of current bass trends and a smart fusion of techniques and ideas to make a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. He weaves in elements of juke and footwork to good effect, wherein the fast syncopation of his sampled rhythms and songs blends in seamlessly with his production, and at others he draws on more traditional techno and house elements, such as the jaunty organ of “Conqueror (Remorse/Withdrawn)” or the electro meets trap of “Ashiko” (a personal favorite).
I do think it’s worth mentioning that Crisci may be walking a bit of a line here with the gratuitous cultural appropriation of his music. Then again, I don’t know much about him — so I suppose I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, mainly because this album is so good from start to finish. On the one hand, Crisci is pilfering through recordings of other cultures and retooling them to his own advantage, but on the other he’s also introducing listeners to a whole other world of music they might never have heard otherwise. So perhaps that balancing act is part of what makes Tayi Bebba work so well. I liken it to Bryn Jones’ sprawling career as Muslimgauze, a project helmed by a white Brit but which often sampled or heavily referred back to Arabic music and politics; while that project was far more informed by sociopolitical ideas and Crisci’s seems more like a loveletter to the music of another culture, both do so with such a reverence that it feels like solidarity more than exploitation to me. Add to it that Crisci and Black Acre published the Tayi Bebba website which describes an entire storyline for the album, track by track. Sometimes music that refers to other non-Western cultures like this falls prey to gratuitous exoticism and cheesy cliches; when was the last time you heard bird calls or an elephant used in dance music that didn’t just reek of big club cheesiness? So to hear the triumphant trumpet calls of an elephant when “Ashiko” throws down the gauntlet with its dense, bass-heavy breakdown, it work startlingly well. Something that could have been horribly misguided somehow feels clever and joyous instead. Only one track here breaks the 4 minute mark, with most of the album’s 17 tracks falling well under 3 or even 2 minutes in length. This could result in a fragmented, sketched-in feeling, but I find it to be a real strength of the album. Considering three cuts are named “Conqueror” with sub-divided names within each track, I think those swift maneuvers between tempo and vibe are entirely deliberate on Crisci’s part, and it works to great effect.
As a result, an album that is fairly dense with ideas feels vibrant and exciting, rarely sitting still long enough to get bored by any single idea. Crisci’s fusion of dubstep, footwork, juke, and other dance music trends with traditional polyrhythms, chants, and a healthy nod to Shangaan electro all make Tayi Bebba a sunny delight to the ears. Highly recommended.