Rating: Rumours of its coming long preceded its arrival but finally the moment is upon us and all and sundry can marvel at the sonic treasures of Ugly Mac Beer’s The Valley Of The Kings. Via the medium of instrumental hip-hop, the French producer’s latest LP is a concept piece designed to conjure the mysteries of Ancient Egypt – or more accurately – the atmosphere of sword and sandalB-movies set in the ‘Land of the Pharaoahs.’ Cue ten fat boom-bap cuts (plus two bonus tracks) laced with splendidly hammy vintage movie dialogue samples (of the Vincent Price/ Christopher Lee-ish variety) in at least two different languages and any number of actual Near Eastern instrument samples or fifties and sixties movie score approximations of such.
Perhaps the monkey might guide the reader through the valley in question? First on our tour is the title track with its portentous main strings loop. Some way further on we hear the more sedate Listen To Me, evoking, say, Nefertiti’s evening promenade. The New Flame elicits a sense of the martial grandeur of the kingdom of Rameses II while Dolce Vita returns us once more to the realm of the female – one might imagine listening to this while bathing in asses’ milk on a shaky film set. Les Choeurs Perdus provides a classic demonstration of Eastern vocal scales (as you’d expect from an item named after lost choirs) while Fortune & Gloire is string-laden manifestation of Ancient Nile-region pomp. Note the mischievous percussion on Years of Despare (sic), suggestive of an evening in the Pharaoh’s seraglio, while a voice which might actually be Vincent Price intones, “I have known years of despair” – as well he might if he only got to spend fifty-one seconds with his harem. It’s back to the strings for Ambitious Dream (and also back to a sense of Rameses II’s expansionist vision) while Resurrection might be a paean to the skills of the embalmers and Charming Caravan an anthem for trans-desert trade. Two final musical artifacts besides remain, the vocal cut Kabylia and one of the monkey’s favourites – Peace on Acid with it’s hypnotic repeated refrains. Beyond that, the lone and level sonic sands stretch far away.
(Out now on X-Ray Production)