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Fatima Al Qadiri, ‘Desert Strike’ album review

By — Allison Stewart,

Fatima Al Qadiri Desert Strike

New York City-based composer and conceptual artist Fatima Al Qadiri grew up in Kuwait, and spent the formative part of her childhood playing video games in the basement to block out the sounds of the first Gulf War.

More than 20 years later, Al Qadiri issued the spooky, minimalist five-song EP “Desert Strike,” named after the popular post-war video game “Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf.”

An almost entirely instrumental collage of 8-bit-reminiscent effects, Middle Eastern beats and tinny ’80s keyboards subtly influenced by early grime and overtly influenced by that childhood juxtaposition of video game violence and the real war that once raged on Al Qadiri’s doorstep, “Desert Strike” is a chilly and fascinating work.

It’s an anti-war album only in the broadest sense: Al Qadiri seeds the blistering “Oil Well” with the sounds of gunshots, explosions in the distance and coins rattling in a slot. Elsewhere, she treats war as an immovable fact of life. “Desert Strike” is more cohesive than, but otherwise equal to, Al Qadiri’s early EP, “Genre-Specific Xperience,” in which each song was an experiment in the manipulation of genres ranging from tropicalia to Gregorian trance.

”Desert Strike” is a deceptively mild offering that shouldn’t work — its songs are virtually indistinguishable from each other, it’s impossible to separate its inherent worth from Al Qadiri’s backstory, the Enya-esque backing vocals often make it seem like apocalyptic spa music — but it does, somehow. And while “Desert Strike” surely won’t be the last word on that half-buried conflict, it’s a proper soundtrack, at last.

— Allison Stewart

Recommended Tracks

“Ghost Raid,” “Desert Strike”

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