Beyond The Blue Mosque & Narcotic

The following appeared in Ellipse.

It had to happen someday, and here I am, totally seduced by the insidious lure of Muslimgauze. To be honest, it seemed unlikely listening to Bryn Jones old stuff never left me with any strong impressions. Happily for my ears and unhappily for my wallet, this English devil is the most prolific artist on the planet the music has evolved nicely. Even wonderfully.

These two CDs came out at about the same time, around last June. Since then, it seems that four more have been released. Let's focus for the moment on 'Beyond the Blue Mosque'. You might know that Staalplaat, one of the two labels connected to Muslimgauze (along with it's American cousin Soleilmoon), occasionally releases CDs, 10"s, 7"s, double and even triple(!) CDs in limited editions (no more than 700 copies). Well aware that a large part of the public will never have the luxury of buying them all, the Dutch label has decided to regularly release compilations of the best tracks from these rarities. "Beyond the Blue Mosque" is the first of these. It establishes the breadth of Bryn Jones mastery, and the variety (really!) of his music. Most often it is percussion-based, with effects, bells, and lots of samples (often voices), the pieces constantly flowing together and breaking apart. Check out the range between "Vanilla Jellaba," a terrific piece of quasi-tribal work, and "Najibullah Headless," quasi-divesque saturated electronics. Or between "Deceiver," an awesome, 24 minute long ambient journey, and the boring "Beseej" with its fast and tedious binary rhythm.

Nine pieces, varying from the fabulous (most of the time) to the wearying (occasionally). The only regret that I have is that I didn't order some of these limited edition releases in time (speaking of, if anyone is getting rid of "Return of Black September," "Deceiver" or "Izlamaphobia," I'll take them!).

'Narcotic' is not part of the limited edition series, though it was supposed to be originally. Staalplaat decided that it was too good to be a limited release, so now everyone can get a hold of it. And sure enough, this is a masterpiece! With the exception of two filler tracks, the whole album is extraordinary. From the fiendish rhythms of "Medina Flight" to the oriental melody of "Saddam's Children", everything is perfect. The ingredients are still basically the same (percussion, samples, electronic beats, effects, bells), but an undeniably masterful touch transforms the vast majority of these tracks into near-perfect works. So there you have it, my wallet hurts, but its too late, I've become hooked on Muslimgauze too!

review by Jean-Marc Boucher
This review originally appeared in now Ellipse No. 1 (February, 1998)
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see also Beyond The Blue Mosque, Fatah Guerrilla, Narcotic, Sandtrafikar, Vampire Of Tehran & Zuriff Moussa & Narcotic

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Beyond The Blue Mosque  Narcotic
January 9, 2017