As the story goes, Los Angeles husband-and-wife duo Danny and Tiffany Preston stumbled upon a Lebanese Casio keyboard one day. Using the keyboard’s foreign microtonal scales and tinny beats, they released an EP of eastern psychedelic electronica as Rainbow Arabia.
Boys & Diamonds, Rainbow Arabia’s debut album on Germany’s prestigious Kompakt label, further strives to play up their sort- of-foreign roots. With song titles like “Papai,” “Hai,” and “Jungle Bear,” and album art that looks like a reinterpretation of a Keith Haring painting by a fourth grader on mushrooms, everything about Rainbow Arabia evokes a kind of pseudo-cultural lo-fi pop in the vein of contemporaries like Gang Gang Dance and Fever Ray.
The beginning of Boys & Diamonds comes across as an accessible, Cyndi-Lauper-gone-tribal approach to world music. The second track (and first single) “Without You” might sound like an ’80s Billboard chart-topper, were it less reliant on vague polyrhythm and dubby synth effects. Though this sense of structured melody continues throughout the rest of the album, Boys & Diamonds’ latter half tends more toward experimental textures and downbeat melodies. “Hai” finds Mrs. Preston engaging in some of her most memorable and adventurous melodic work over deep bass and steadily oscillating synthesizer burbling.
It’s a promising debut, though Boys & Diamonds tends to err too often on the side of caution. The duo’s structured pop is consistently pleasant, but pales next to the more unconventional and experimental tracks like “Hai” and “Mechanical,” on which their looser, less traditional approach allows them to reach greater heights. (7/10)