As EclecticMusicLover, I enjoy listening to a broad range of music genres and styles. And while my tastes generally lean toward alternative rock, dream pop, folk rock, synth pop and R&B, I’m always open to expanding my musical horizons by venturing outside my comfort zone. With that in mind, I was intrigued when singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leah Al-Uqdah reached out to me about her band The Red Locks and their debut album Arena Dream Trap. Blending together elements of trap, hip hop, arena rock and dream pop, they create their own distinctly unique sound they’ve labeled ‘Arena Dream Trap’.
Based in Chicago, The Red Locks are also a rather unusual band, comprised of the aforementioned Leah Al-Uqdah, her husband DJ Privileged (aka David M Pospiech), and their 14-year-old son, percussion savant David Henry Pospiech. DJ Privileged has also been part of Chicago band Virga Trollyp, while Leah has played with bands Off The Radar and Another Pretty Lush. Both DJ Privileged and Leah play guitar, bass and keyboards, while their son David plays drums and keyboards. With a vocal range and timbre somewhat reminiscent of Björk, Leah sings lead vocals, and DJ Privileged sings back-up.
About their album, Leah confided to me: “So many years and tears have gone into these songs. I really feel the world needs these songs, to share a bottled remedy to aid in a hurtful world. I can help others grow from my pain and pensive notes from my very private spiritual journey. We titled the album ‘Arena Dream Trap’, because it’s the sum of our parts.”
Well, let me say that the instant I pressed play and heard the opening track “Our Father“, I was taken aback by it’s trippy vibes and explicit lyrics. I was not expecting to hear “The Lord’s Prayer” and the words “You know, eating pussy cures cancer” together in the same song, but I get it. My guess is that the song is a statement on the nature of what constitutes as ‘sin’ in our rather hypocritical Judeo-Christian culture. To drive home their message, The Red Locks layer spooky ethereal synths over a throbbing trap bass groove as Leah talk-sings the lyrics in her breathy echoed vocals.
That deep, pulsating trap bass groove continues on the next track “$I4R“, short for “$o Impractical For Real”, only this time overlain by DJ Privileged’s jarringly beautiful psychedelic guitar chords that hover in a sweet spot between distorted and jangly, accompanied by recurring hand claps. I have no clue as to the song’s meaning, but I really like those resonant guitars. The curiously titled “Helen Keller” is even trippier, with spacey synths, otherworldly male voices and a discordant melody. But the most notable aspect of the song are Leah’s amazing vocal gymnastics, which go from oddly seductive baby-like croons to reverb-soaked menacing wails.
“Overrated” is more melodic and upbeat than the previous tracks, with swirling, almost carnival-like synths and cheerful drumbeats, accompanied by Leah’s lilting vocals. I think it’s the prettiest song on the album. But “Spinning to Survive” has a harsher lo-fi sound, with grungy guitars and David’s assertive and marvelously intricate drumbeats. Leah’s colorful vocals sound almost like another instrument in themselves, adding to the song’s rich texture and enchanting vibe.
Perhaps the most unusual track on the album, both musically and lyrically, is “This Semester“. The song has a fairly simple trap beat, but features an exotic and complex blend of spacey instrumentals and sounds. My interpretation of the lyrics is that they seem address pregnancy and sex, however, Leah told me they’re actually conceptual, and meant to explore an abusive one-sided relationship an artist develops with music. Leah starts off with a series of la-la-las in a sing-song manner, then sings in a baby-like voice “I think I really fucked up this semester, ’cause I think I know what’s best for her. A new way of expressing her true temperature. For an even cure, believe in her ability to grow that seed in her, the need to know that she’s for sure I’m keeping her, close to my heart. Because it’s not about pain. We’ll make sure no one gets fucked, but like everyone came.” Later in the song, DJ Privilege gets even more explicit, speaking lyrics I won’t repeat here.
“I Don’t Recall” is tasty little psychedelic acid rock trip, while “It Takes Like” is an acid trip on steroids. The eerie industrial synths, discordant percussion, gnarly distorted guitars and Leah’s almost maniacal vocals create a deeply unsettling vibe. I didn’t think the songs could get any more strange, but “1000 Words” proved me wrong. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, as despite the very discordant triphop melody, skittering chirpy synths and Leah’s starkly contrasting blend of tortured and sing-song vocals, followed by DJ Privilege’s rapped verses, the song has a certain bizarre appeal. They close the album with “Strung Along“, a fairly mellow and gauzy rock track, featuring grainy distorted guitars, restrained percussion and Leah’s quirky warbling vocals. The song ends with her saying “thank you”, in humble appreciation for our having listened to their album.
While Arena Dream Trap won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a unique and utterly fascinating work that deserves attention. I applaud The Red Locks’ strong originality, imagination and musicianship, and if you like quirky trap music that pushes the envelope, you will enjoy this record.