Back in 2009, before the world had seen the likes of One Direction and Bieber Fever, there existed a band called Egyptian Hip Hop who took the indie world by storm. Their first ever release, ‘Rad Pitt’, ruffled so many feathers that without even a full EP to their name they were being tabbed as the ‘ones to watch’. And then after releasing their first EP Some Reptiles Grew Wings in 2010 the band just pretty much vanished off everyone’s radar. Two years later, out from obscurity, Egyptian Hip Hop remerge, offering us their debut album Good Don’t Sleep. But was it really worth the wait?
One thing it seems the time away has done for Egyptian Hip Hop is to make them learn the art of atmosphere. Where Moon Crooner was always knocked up to 11 on the volume control and had everything thrown at it; Good Don’t Sleep is, on the whole, more artfully restrained. Whereas before it seemed like the band pressed every button on their synths at one time or another; they’ve learnt that perhaps that’s not the way to approach an album.
This being said, the album opener ‘Tobago’ is the most synth heavy. It is punctuated by a loop of beeps that, when merged with the vocals, makes it sound like a hipster chant. It actually makes for an oddly unnerving start to an album. Perhaps this is why ‘The White Falls’ has over a minute of intro before the track starts—which takes the song to an impressive running time of over 5 minutes without anything particularly substantial to warrant it; same for ‘Snake Lane West’.
‘Alalon’ doesn’t suffer from such overblown lengths. It’s a quiet, relaxing song driven by the bass line that makes the track sound almost like it should be on a chill-out CD. Alex Hewett’s airy, breathy lyrics don’t help to dispel this notion; but it’s far more interesting than ‘run of the mill’ pop. Alongside ‘Yoro Diallo’, ‘Strange Veil’ and ‘SYH’ it makes for the most unusual and quite frankly, wonderfully bizarre middle-section of an album for a long time. ‘Yoro Diallo’ sounds like it could be the backing music to a Spyro game more than anything else and that, quite frankly, is brilliant. The synths are bright and fresh and intertwined with some really skilful guitar work. ‘Strange Veil’ has ghostly vocals over the top of an infuriatingly slow beat that has all the elements that could make it a indie-dance track if sped up a little—but that’s not a criticism, it’s still fiendishly captivating. ‘SYH’, the lead single, is definitely one of the best on the album and gives you a good indication of what Egyptian Hip Hop are capable of doing.
With 2 years of work on it; there are still parts of Good Don’t Sleep that are just average. The problem, is that when Egyptian Hip Hop get it right, they do something you’re rarely going to come across anywhere else and that, in itself, makes up for the other lacklustre tracks on the album.