Back in the glory days of the ’80s and ’90s, compilation albums were a really big deal in the UK: music fans would queue up to get hold of the latest Hits and Now That’s What I Call Music! offerings as soon as they came out. Since then the popularity of the musical selection box has headed downhill, but here in Dubai it seems like their time has finally come – with the release of Ampulance Volume 3.
Created by Ampulance, a Dubai-based musicians’ collective with its own ’zine , this third compilation has 20 new tunes from the best-known local bands in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, including the likes of Gandhi’s Cookbook, Tim Hassall, Empty Quarter and Universal Rogue. The track listing is like a who’s who of musicians on these shores.
Since 90 per cent of the scene here is wholly amateur, the money isn’t available for all the bands to record their music professionally, but they have made a real effort to ensure that each track is as high a quality as possible. What’s more, the raw, slightly grainy sound really adds to the record’s atmosphere and helps to put it in context with where the bands are at today.
As Peter K – not the British comedian, but one of the Ampulance team – puts it, albums like this really do serve a purpose for both the artists and the listeners. ‘It helps the buyer discover bands they were not aware of,’ he tells me, adding, ‘compilations are also good value for money.’ And at Dhs10 for 20 of the best locally produced songs, he’s not wrong. It’s also a brilliant way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening out there.
Sure, not every track will be to your taste, but I think that most people will like a lot of them. And it gives me an immense feeling of optimism and pride that the local scene is moving forwards.
It kicks off with Tim Hassall’s excellent ‘Price To Be Paid’, a social commentary with a catchy melody, before getting progressively louder, moving into minimalistic techno with Darling Farah’s ‘Floaters’; punk sensibilities from the energetic Public Refuse and thrash-speed metal from A Shot Of Adrenaline. I’ll admit that I wasn’t even fully aware of what death metal was, exactly, until I became a converted fan of Perversion, who provide track 18, ‘Dementia’. Other bands of interest include Capricious Alchemy and 1UP.
Even the packaging is great –not just the beautiful sleeve artwork, but also the bands’ descriptions of them-selves in the inlay. Case in point: Through Sunken Eyes’ line about ‘coming at you like a brainwashed fanatic with a death wish’.
Listening to Ampulance Volume 3 is like having a mini-festival in your car. It isn’t without imperfections, but in the end they really don’t matter – this is a clear step forward for the music scene, and makes me proud of the talent in the UAE.
Ampulance Vol 3 costs Dhs10 and is available from www.ampulance.com. Zahra showcases the latest local talent on Open Mic every Saturday from 8pm-10pm on Dubai Eye 103.8