Grey Filastine was born in Seattle and lives in Barcelona, but he’s a globetrotter through and through, and Dirty Bomb is a pastiche of sound from around the world. With an ear pointed to the type of gritty urban centers depicted on the album cover, Dirty Bomb references dubstep, baile funk, breakcore, North African drum patterns, Arabic folk music and Bollywood strings. And it will devastate your subwoofer.
Hybridization on this scale can create something as revolutionary as "Hungry Ghosts." It begins as a two-step groove with Australian Wire MC adroitly navigating the snare cracks. Midway through, the beat transforms itself into an echo chamber, with ECD, an underground MC from Japan, cutting through the haze.
Dirty Bomb is DJ Filastine’s second album. The sonic lightning rod gained notoriety as a founding member of Infernal Noise Brigade, a 20-piece marching band that fueled the anti-globalization protests at the WTO summit in Seattle. Yet Dirty Bomb is nothing if not a product — and a celebration — of globalization. It could be as useful to a cultural anthropologist as it could to a club in Rio, overheard on a dusty street in Tunis and in Internet cafes in the banlieues outside Paris.
That this multinational soundscape is on DJ/Rupture’s Soot label shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Uproot or Shotgun Wedding. Filastine follows Rupture down the desolate path from the political protest to the dance floor by way of the Sahel. But at times Filastine overreaches, and DJ/Rupture’s deft rhythm-blending is conspicuously absent, as on "Fitnah." The track opens with Flamenco hand claps and a mourning Middle Eastern vocal. But unlike the track’s distant cousin on Shotgun Wedding, "Game Over," the bass is a shade too demonic for the delicate feminine voice.
On "Con Las Manos en la Masa," favela drums patter around a looping siren while Argentinean rapper Malena D’Alessio rapid-fires a chorus: "Movete tu cadera en Africa/ movete tu cintura in Asia" ("Move your hips in Africa/ Move your waist in Asia"). But it’s not all about dancing for Filastine. As the name implies, Dirty Bomb attempts to make a political statement. "Music is a weapon/ Music is a thing of the future./ Music is a weapon of the future," says a nondescript voice on "Marxa." What Filastine intends to do with the weapon, and who possesses the bomb is a mystery. But does it really matter?
Even after translating some of the verses, it’s tough to decipher the message behind Dirty Bomb. An explanation comes on the last track, "Como Fugitivos." A gypsy girl, apparently singing in a cave in Southern Spain, wails "robalo" ("steal it"). It couldn’t be more obvious: Filastine is the 21st century’s sound appropriator, snatching up and repackaging the world’s most raw noise. It’s not too unlike another artist who used to reside in Barcelona, a certain Mr. Picasso, who had advice that Filastine has probably heard: "Good artists borrow. Great artists steal."