Rainbow Arabia Boys and Diamonds(Kompakt) Buy it from Insound
Rainbow Arabia are not a band of hidden depths. Named in honour of the Lebanese Casio that prompted husband and wife Danny (also of punk/dub band Future Pigeon) and Tiffany Preston to form the band (not the most grandiose of band formation stories), the duo produces the sort of colourful, Eastern influenced electronica that their moniker would suggest. And just to make sure nobody comes in with incorrect preconceptions, they've gone and given their debut album the Material Girl-shallow title of Boys and Diamonds.
Not that such things really matter – Tiffany's vocals are more there to add texture rather than carry much emotional weight themselves, and are often difficult to make out anyway. Partially this is due to them being buried in the mix in favour of the busy instrumentation, but a lot of it's down to the fact that she sings in the most bizarrely incomprehensible accent. At first the thought that no Los Angeles native named Tiffany would naturally sing in such an accent raises thoughts of faux-exotic contrivance and, to take it a step further, racism, but after a while the realisation hits that she's mimicking other singers – when she's at her most understandable, such as on the samba-esque lead track Without You she sounds like Siouxsie Sioux, but for the majority of the record, her voice is a dead ringer for The Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson.
And really, it would be impossible for the duo to get away with saying that The Knife weren't a big influence on their sound, specifically the Deep Cuts album. Replace Boys and Diamonds' clattering percussion with steel drums (or rather a tinny synthesised version of steel drums) and many of its tracks would fit comfortably on that record – Mechanical in particular with its elastic drumming, slow and simple keyboard riff and Tiffany's creepy girlish vocal refrain of "Love me like a little child". Although, perhaps fortunately, Rainbow Arabia don't decide to follow the Swedish duo down their more out-there paths – the closest they get to Deep Cuts' more abrasive moments, is in the wailing that Tiffany offers during the final track Sequenced.
While Rainbow Arabia may not be offering the most wildly original of sounds, they do have some new twists to offer. The Lebanese keyboard's localised sounds and microtonal scales pepper a lot of the tracks, as do post-punk guitars and occasional bursts of glitchy programming, which contrast nicely with the big and brash beats found elsewhere on the album. By the time penultimate track Sayer comes about the duo start fiddling about with Tiffany's vocals, possibly to escape the comparisons to Andersson. It may not be the most unique and memorable of albums, but there's a lot in Boys and Diamonds to like; great thumping melodies, intriguingly mad vocals and moments of beauty (particularly the delicate drumming that closes the album) and shows that Rainbow Arabia are a band that have the potential to be far more interesting than their mundane origins would suggest.4 March, 2011 - 20:51 — Mark Davison