Rainbow Arabia: Boys and Diamonds

Put together tribal beats of the Bow Wow Wow variety, sprinkle them with African and Caribbean flourishes, electro-synth blaze, and lead vocals that sound a tad, shall we say, reminiscent of The Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson and package it into three-minute, kaleidoscopic pop songs and whaddya got? Rainbow Arabia, natch. Word has it that LA duo Danny and Tiffany Preston inaugurated the project with the purchase of a Lebanese Casio that played microtonal scales and Eastern beats, a move that led to two EPs, The Basta and Kabukimono, that merged a potpourri of sounds and styles—bossa nova, post-punk, disco, synth-pop, and exotic Middle Eastern rhythms—into a “fourth world” pop style that now finds its fullest flowering on the group's debut full-length Boys And Diamonds.

Nearly a year in the making, the album's a solid collection that manages to be boldly imaginative and accessible; the songs may be built up from exotic tribal beats and left-field vocal and instrumental touches, but they're at root pop songs that live or die on the caliber of their hooks. At times the material suggests what might result from The Knife jamming with the Tom Tom Club, with all involved focusing on concise song construction as opposed to freeform meander. “Without You,” a sing-song New Wave anthem elevated by a parade of vocal-and-synth hooks, stands out as one of the album's strongest pieces. In some other galaxy, “Hai” has been holding the top spot in the singles' chart hostage for three weeks now. In contrast to such extra-terrestrial material, neon-lit tracks such as “Mechanical” and “This Life is Practice” are more squarely rooted in the electro-pop tradition but no less engaging for being so. What Boys And Diamonds is doing on Kompakt is anyone's guess, but the Berlin label gets high marks for including such an unashamedly pop album in its release schedule. Best of all, Rainbow Arabia's album weighs in at forty-two minutes, bless its little heart, just like all good pop albums should.

March 2011