Album Review: Maral – Ground Groove : global big beats with vision.

The Breakdown

Industrial and earthy in equal measures Maral has been working towards her own unique blend with ‘Ground Groove’ representing another leap forward.
Leaving Records 8.8

The fine art of sampling is less about cut and paste or stitching together, it’s much more than finding that funky line or hipster phrase and building from there. The best sampling becomes part of the overall story, not an add-on or slot-in but entrenched in the overall soundscape, a part of the music’s roots. LA based producer/DJ Maral understands these fundamentals, making a connection with her samples, putting herself inside this music or as she frames it, working in collaboration with her sources.

So unsurprisingly her Iranian heritage is a key cultural reference point, underpinning the urgent dancefloor orientation of Maral’s output from her ‘Mahur Club’ album in 2019 through to 2020’s ‘Push’ and onto her latest release ‘Ground Groove’ (available from Leaving Records, 18th October onwards). That’s not to say that the alchemic infusion of classical, folk, pop and religious music from Iran is the only magic that goes on within Maral’s deep reaching cuts. She pulls on strands from her dub heavy, emo facing youth and from her own punky, no rules DIY take on Ableton mangling for added energy. Industrial and earthy in equal measures Maral has been working towards her own unique blend with ‘Ground Groove’ representing another leap forward.

It’s also an album with a further collaborative dimension. Based on Maral’s installation work with audio-visual artist Brenna Murphy for the 2019 Re-Wire Festival, the music explores the possibilities inspired by this relationship. Intriguingly structured, ‘Ground Groove’ features the complete soundscape created for Re-Wire as a concluding sequence but opens with a series of tracks that responds to that original piece and takes things further on. Consequently there’s a real synergy here, a coherence that gets strengthened because Maral ensures the physical power of her music stays prominent throughout ‘Ground Groove’. With her live guitar and bass playing pushed out front there’s no doubt that her familiar strident rhythmic message will hold firm.

Opener ‘Feedback Jam’ underlines that commitment. Grumbling noise bass, tentative guitar twangs, distorted toxic signals and a stoic, processional single beat open the doors onto some dark wave interior. The drum pattern may slink into a motoric pattern but the snatches of celestial whispers and prayer calls maintain the tension. Short, sharp and punchy, ‘Feedback Jam’ is an assurance that Maral’s music is dealing in a different kind of abstraction. ‘Avaz-e-Del’ assumes a similar assertive big beat dynamic, its chest pounding one note bass line and edgy riff interjections providing the anchor for wailing vocal incantations to ride the storm. Then there’s the Tackhead techno starkness of ‘Come Around’, where the industrial weightiness is lifted by Maral’s exquisitely woven traditional atmospherics.

Such serious tones and sonic drive at times recall the intensity of Muslimguaze at his most angered but ‘Ground Groove’ frequently varies the routes it takes while negotiating a similar landscape. ‘Hold My Hand, Go For A Walk’ surprises with guitar twangs plus Rai pop suggestions and ‘Heart Shimmer’ takes a steamy trip-hop lurch to some sacred music location but it’s ‘Shy Night’, which features Brenna Murphy, that packs the most dizzying complexity into a two minute stay. Sub-bass skank, Bonham beats, synth sonar and cryptic spoken snippets, it’s all there waiting to be stretched out.

Uncannily, despite the quick fire rapidity of the tunes in the first half of ‘Ground Groove’ it’s a record that never feels fragmented. Maral is not simply serving up sketches here, each track says all it needs to say – if you want more then play them again. They also skillfully build momentum to the more conjoined sequence capturing the music from the original Murphy/Maral installation project, a closely woven quartet of tracks that tighten with dramatic tension.

Beginning with the ghosting electronics of ‘Behind the Rock & Into the Tunnel’, the door soon opens on switchback rhythm ride that is ‘Mari’s Groove’, clicking through funk, bumping nu-soul and hip-hop beats as the vocal loops swirl. Before you know it the pivotal ‘Walk and A Talk’ marches threateningly into the picture, doomy, descending and daring, where the intricate sequencing of street conversations transport you direct to some unfamiliar corner of Tehran. Then ‘Glimmer’s Kiss’ provides the striking coda, a punchy synth boom sparring hard with the agile dance of lush strings for an almost sultry wind down.

Even without its visual counterpart, what Maral has created on ‘Ground Groove’ is a soundtrack bursting with imagery and searing with intensity. Her collaboration with Brenna Murphy has obviously had a powerful impact and it’s that inspirational lift which this album will spark in any open-minded listener. A record that definitely crosses borders but which also resolutely draws things together.

Get your copy of ‘Ground Groove’ by Maral from your local record store or direct from:

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