“I removed the frets from the guitar and started fucking with it because I was bored of the scale — like, the Western scale — and I didn’t have an oud."
This is the story of ‘Urاور’, the closing track from Tuqoos | طُقُوس’, the debut album by Ramallah-based producer and rapper Julmud جُلْمود, who reworks the sounds of the Arab world into a twisted melange of dense beats and mantric flows. The track is an outlier on the record; a freeform jam recorded on a phone that is described as “Bahraini country” by El Far3i, a friend and familiar face in the Jordanian/Palestinian scene. But it encapsulates something essential of Julmud’s approach.
‘Tuqoos’ is a bubbling cauldron of sonic exploration; a barrage of samples broken down and moulded into equal parts industrial clatter, celestial dreamscape, head-bobbing groove and dubwise alchemy. Julmud’s whims feel groundbreaking and evoke the astrological roaming of Adrian Sherwood or Lee Perry at the controls.
He is as much a scholar as he is a technician, though, taking inspiration from YouTube rabbit holes and always drawing lines across cultures and traditions. Take the first single, ‘Falnukmel فلنكمل’, a maelstrom of clanging beats and rapid-fire bars described by Pitchfork as “industrial trap”.
“This is straight-up sawt music from Kuwait or Bahrain,” he chuckles. “Even the distortion. Most of the recordings you’ll find are distorted, and in ‘Falnukmel’, that’s part of the sound. I wanted to get to the point where you might think of it as hip-hop, but this is much older than hip-hop.
“It’s about my music, my culture,” he continues, explaining how in Palestinian music “you find this reggaeton groove”, or how in Morocco “they’re making trap music better than the shit I hear in the US”. But rather than being Western music made by Arabs, it’s about how Arab music can be interpreted in a new way.