Album of the Day: El Mahdy Jr., “Time to Sell the Golden Teeth”

A sample is never just a sample in El Mahdy Jr’s shadowy world. Whether it’s windswept strings, a mournful vocal melody, or bass-heavy breaks, the Algerian producer’s anxious loops act as vessels for long-forgotten stories. They’re also a reflection of his own muddled memories—lapsed travelogues from a life spent exploring the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. (When he’s not making eerie sound experiments, El-Mahdi Rezoug works as a French-Algerian translator in countries like Croatia, Burkina Faso, and his longtime home, Turkey.)

While he’s released several records since 2013’s The Spirit of Fucked Up Places, Time to Sell the Golden Teeth is only El Mahdy Jr.’s second official album. In a lot of ways, it’s a logical extension of last year’s Ghost Tapes EP, a cryptic two-sided collage of ambient-noise asides, broken radio broadcasts, and choppy beats—only this time, these experiments congeal into actual songs. The trick is in how everything translates, as singers become sirens from the great beyond and countless international styles—everything from manic electronic music to swampy blues spirituals—collide with field recordings of wild animals, restless waterways, and erratic weather patterns.

Over time, it all begins to cohere and make sense—and there are also plenty of small, fascinating details to observe on the journey.

—Andrew Parks

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