The SHARE Beirut conference, which took place this past weekend, was the followup to the hugely successful SHARE Conference held in Belgrade, Serbia in 2011. Bringing together some of the biggest names in Internet culture and alternative music from around the world and across the Middle East, SHARE Beirut aims to encourage and celebrate Internet culture, collaboration, and sharing in every shape and form. As part of its night program, SHARE Beirut brought UK sound-tweaker, Tim Exile, and Egyptian electro-clash trio, Wetrobots <3 Bosaina, to Metro Al Madina for an evening of high-tech mayhem.
The gig was opened by Tim Exile. Exile is a unique breed of electronic musician: as a kid, he was a classically trained violinist, who later got into production, but felt limited by the “controlled” nature of electronic music and wanted to “freak out and wig out,” as he could when improvising on violin. Being the techie that he is, he devised a unique live set-up where he generates and manipulates synthesized sound as well as his own voice, looping and chopping it to create an entire beat in some cases. In addition to being at the forefront of digital music with his gear, he was sought out by SHARE for his “online jams”. In these jams he invited ordinary people to send him samples through Soundcloud.com, using them to play an improvised live set in real-time.
Exile’s opening track was exemplary of his method and style; a grinding drone loops in the background as Exile applies some effects. Steadily, more sounds are stacked on top of each other, some electronic, some generated by mouth, others a mix of both: speaking with a vocoder-like effect applied. Eventually, where there was once abstract noise, there is now a fully-formed beat. Exile seasons it with effects; a dash of flanger, a spoonful of delay, and some reverb for extra flavor. He triggers the samples amassed on and off, creating tension, adding variety. All of this completely improvised, with no prior planning. The rest of the set was along the same vein. One track was completely fabricated through Exile’s beatboxing and singing, similar to the technique employed by previous SHARE Conference guest, Beardyman. He would often smoothly segue from one piece to another, completely breaking down the beat and leaving a single lone element to solo, only to warp and distort it, using the new loop to kick off the next beat.
Even when talking to the crowd, Exile could not let a sound be heard un-manipulated, as he would cleverly apply effects to his voice at strategic moments; “joining me on this straaaange voyage… voyage… voyage.” It was a strange voyage indeed, and all those present were glad they were there for the ride.
Tim Exile is a tough act for anyone to follow, so Wetrobots <3 Bosaina had their work cut out for them. The Wetrobots are the DJ duo Hussein El Sherbini and Ismail Hosny, who support seductive female vocalist Bosaina. The Wetrobots opened their set with a solo number. The Wetrobots could be considered an adequate electronic duo; not terrible, but not distinct. They were later joined by their frontwoman, the seductive Bosaina, dressed in a corset and knee-high boots. The band is described as “electro-clash,” and that is a fairly accurate description of the style. The beats are melodic, aggressive, mechanical; exactly what you expect from electronica. The Wetrobots were also adding effects to Bosaina’s voice as she sang of “music, food, and sex” and similar topics. Bosaina constantly expressed her admiration for Beirut and their acceptance of them, remarking on how hard it is for them to do what they do back home.
Not that the two acts were competing that night, but though interesting in their own right, Wetrobots <3 Bosaina paled in comparison to Exile, who should be a model for all electronic musicians, putting spontaneity and creativity back into what’s seen as a formulaic “no-effort-required” genre by many. As they say: different strokes for different folks, and these two acts stroked the Beirut crowd in just the right ways.
(Photo courtesy of SHARE Beirut)