BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS have been spent, armies have been deployed, and bombs have tumbled from the heavens, yet the American doctrine's most successful breakthrough in the Middle East has come with the thumbs-up "Like" button. Facebook's inestimable role in the rising tide of democracy that has swelled in the Middle East is evident of a global transition like no other. Our planet is now wired and accessible, no longer made up of impenetrable borders that hold local cultures prisoner while simultaneously keeping outside influences at bay.
Rainbow Arabia don't particularly devote themselves to such weighty causes—at least, the music of Danny and Tiffany Preston is not overtly political in nature—but much like a Facebook status update that can fill Tahrir Square, this global digitization has opened up previously inaccessible paths to foreign culture, most notably music. Musicians are no longer handcuffed to their immediate surroundings, a fact made abundantly clear within seconds of Rainbow Arabia' debut LP, Boys and Diamonds. The Los Angeles husband-and-wife duo might as well reside in Johannesburg, Beirut, or Berlin—or possibly all three.
"Nowadays the music that surrounds you isn't just what's going on in the local scene," explains Danny. "You can't help but hear everything that comes in from around the globe with blogs and social media. It's a lot easier to research and find music now." No longer a captive audience to his surroundings, this former rock musician dove headlong into the Sublime Frequencies catalog, submerging himself in a borderless array of sounds that were once a rarity here in the States. The Prestons purchased a Lebanese keyboard—yes, such a thing does exist—and with the couple's crate-digging devotion and insatiable musical appetite, soon Rainbow Arabia was born.
Their 2008 debut was the raw The Basta EP, a slithering collection of Middle Eastern beats filtered through the glitz of modern pop music—like a house party hosted by Omar Souleyman. That gave way to the precision dance-floor seduction of the Kabukimono EP, where vocalist Tiffany Preston's breathy yelps and disco coo finally came into their own (most notably on the band's club banger "Holiday in Congo"). The groundwork laid by this pair of introductory EPs led to Boys and Diamonds, the band's first recording for German electronic label Kompakt.
Rainbow Arabia's most obvious link still might be to M.I.A., but it's a slightly misleading assessment, as Boys and Diamonds deliberately avoids the day-glo political grandstanding of Maya Arulpragasam and focuses instead on a well-stamped passport of bubblegum pop that culls influences from around the globe. Lead single "Without You" balances African percussion, Afro/cosmic disco, and a distinct 1980s art-pop sound (think Kate Bush and It's My Life-era Talk Talk), creating one of the most addicting—and fun—songs to bless your speakers. It works well in contrast to tracks like the nearly instrumental "Papai," with its sinister keyboard hooks, and the lurking dub sounds of "Hai," whose muted beat and soft vocals might be the closest thing this duo has created to a dance-floor ballad.
As for the next influence to catch Rainbow Arabia's fancy, Danny has a few ideas at the ready: "Lately, I've really been into Typhoon Italo disco stuff, especially Beppe Loda," he explains. "There's so much stuff to explore, I guess that's why our styles bounce around a lot. There's just so much good and interesting music to get into."