Album: MIA

Arula, XL
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The Independent Culture

It really shouldn't come as a surprise that the most vital new sound from the UK dance underground should come from a transplanted Sri Lankan now living in west London and adapting the style, patter and sounds of Jamaican dancehall culture to her own ends. Maya Arulpragasam, aka MIA, is a perfect example of Britain's mongrel musical culture, the way that our various styles and genres can't help but overlap, collide and interbreed, in a manner unimaginable in the strictly segregated American music scene. "Slang Tang, that's the MIA thang", she asserts early on in Arular, conceding her debt to the classic Jamaican "Sleng Teng" digital dancehall style; but "Fire Fire" offers a more complete picture of the tributaries feeding her flow, with namechecks for Missy and Timbaland, Lou Reed and Pixies, Crunk and Beasties, and acid and bogle: a stew of indie hip-house condensed down to an infectious rhythmic framework of 808 acid-house bleeps and squelches marshalled for maximum propulsive heft. Her raps, too, have a uniquely UK flavour, with gun chatter kept to a minimum in favour of brisk, cheeky banter similarly pared down to basics. The coolest sound for the coming summer.