On What Have We Learned, Lebanese producer Rabih Beaini is presented with the same dilemma that every other electronic music artist with lofty intentions faces – namely how his music can make the successful transition to a long-player format. Unlike most of his peers however, Beaini manages to imbue What Have We Learned with a common narrative, despite flirting with a range of tempos and arrangements. That unifying bond is a sombre, atmospheric mood. It’s tempting to posit that Beaini was influenced by his residency in Venice – but many of his previous releases have also had a similarly somnambulant quality.
Irrespective of its origins, this gloominess is audible on the opener, “Silent Screamer”, where a resonating bassline underpins an arrangement that skirts loosely around the edges of conventional house music. It also plays a central role on “Too Far”. Featuring freaked out Gothic vocals and tumbling keys, its grungy, primal rhythm makes the connection between modern techno grime and industrial gloom. “Dirty Matter” and “Gates of Night” tell similar tales; the former’s cacophony of foreboding drums and the latter’s hypnotic gamelan-style percussion suggest that Beaini is somehow in tune with a netherworld that his peers are not party to.
Despite this, What Have We Learned isn’t a depressing or demanding listen and although his music is pitched at the outer limits of dancefloor centric electronic music, its ethereal tendencies will draw listeners in rather than repelling them. If you remain unconvinced, check out “Wild In Captivity”, which pushes murky, throbbing rhythms into an irresistible dreamlike state.