Citadel

"Citadel" is the fourth album release on EXTREME by this enigmatic Manchester-based group. For over 10 years, Muslimgauze have defined their style as a Western re-contextualisation of traditional Middle Eastern music enhanced by technology to form a post-modern mix of music, politics and culture. Muslimgauze construct the music through ethnic instruments that are a frame for dark and sometimes foreboding aural tapestries that capture the essence and mood of the music of the Middle East and the plight of the Palestinian people.

"Citadel" is an album of exotic Arabic textures where traditional instruments intermesh with technology, found sounds and voices meld with drones and synthesizers. The album uses both eastern and western rhythmic patterns embedded in layers of shifting soundscapes. The title track "Citadel" with incessant tablas piercing through swirling cymbals and a haunting melody. "Dharam Hinduja", where staccato percussion moves to fill the space between pulsing inverted samples, and "Opel" with drones building only to be overpowered by machine-gun rhythms. "Masawi Wife & Child" has a subdued rhythmic undercurrent while "Infidel" stands out with its strident percussion fusing with a myriad of sounds. "Shouf Balek" incorporates traditional strings that interplay with rhythm and voice, and "Beit Nuba" with mesmerizing chants weaving between a persistent drum beat. It all draws to a close with "Ferdowsi" where percussive improvisations rise and fall through a minimal soundscape.

Muslimgauze produce a raga music for the technological post-cyber age. Shifting cultures out of ancient history into the current day, transcending those traditional forms. "Citadel" has a voice of what is now and perhaps what is to come. In these troubled political times, peace through people being unified in harmony whilst maintaining their own strength and cultural identity is a vision to strive towards.

Press release from Extreme.

The following appeared in Scum Magazine.

Like other Muslimgauze albums, a strong Islamic motif occurs in song titles as well as in musically strategic places. The cover displays the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest place for Muslims; the sight from where Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven. Thus, you are introduced to Manchester's Muslimgauze, continuing its association with Australia's Extreme Records. "Citadel" is a combination of "Western" ambient and trance music combined with Middle Eastern flavours, resulting in eight highly textured tracks. "Shouf Balek" and "Beit Nuba" incorporate intense drumming, moody synthesizers and Arabic chanting. Muslimgauze carefully balances between noise and rhythm. "Citadel" is fierce while not overpowering - playing with your imagination and introducing you to new sounds. While you may not be a fan of trance music, this album will change your mind, at least in favour of Muslimgauze.

Scum Magazine

The following appeared in Option.

Muslimgauze has gotten a severe rap in this magazine in the past for its provocative words on the issue of Palestinian rights - words which don't appear in the music. In a manner not unlike earlier supporters of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, or defenders of the African National Congress; Muslimgauze has in its press releases, often endorsed radical positions in regard to freedom for Palestinians, and maintained what I consider to be an understandable scepticism of attempted peace accords. Like many, Muslimgauze's feelings on the issue are intense, but are borne out much more effectively in its evocative music, which communicates volumes more than the loaded words of either the group or its critics; language, after all, is weighted down with emotional baggage and preconceptions, the meanings of which often become misconstrued and interpreted injuriously. Behind hypnotic rhythms and meditative melodies, Muslimgauze weaves Arabic voices, mosque bells, and subtle chanting and shifting sounds into a rich, warm, beautiful, melancholic quilt of powerful music. On tracks such as "Dharam Hinduja", "Masawi Wife & Child" and "Infidel" you can feel the sorrow, fear, doubt, and ultimately the love that keeps a people striving for survival. The consistency of Muslimgauze's recordings leaves no doubt in my mind as to the sincerity of its political and religious commitment, even as the group's press releases sometimes throw unpleasant verbal darts. Muslimgauze has released an accompanying short CD, Infidel, which contains three tracks not on the album, plus five extra mixes of the title song including the techno "Veil of Peace Mix" and the extended "East Meets West Mix."

review by Mark Kemp
This text originally appeared in Option magazine (issue # 59).
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The following appears in All Music Guide.

A mixed bag on this effort, Citadel was released a couple of years after Muslimgauze stopped recording for Extreme Records; therefore it was possibly compiled from out-takes or other random sources as a result. A number of songs feel more like random noodles than necessarily completed songs; while this has often been a complaint about Muslimgauze's work, it isn't quite as bad here as it is elsewhere, and even the more generic numbers usually have a little something going for them, like the soft wind instrument sounds on "Dharam Hinduja" or the near dubwise production (and, rather surprisingly, dry English spoken vocals at the end!) on "Masawi Wife & Child." The title track has some strong percussion to its credit, up very high in the mix, with a synth-plucked string loop providing the main melody. "Beit Nuba" and "Ferdowsi" stand out as being two of the most ambient tracks in the Muslimgauze catalog; the beat is present in both, but it's heavily mixed down. "Opel" has much more of a rough electronic/industrial feeling to it than many of the Muslimgauze tracks from around the same time, which is an interesting and unexpected touch for the album; while "Shouf Balek" is equally heavy on the electronics, the effect is much more tinny and chintzy. Rather surprisingly, "Infidel" was chosen as a single from the album; given that it doesn't stand out all that much from any other average Muslimgauze track, its selection seems based on whim more than anything else.

review by Ned Raggett
All Music Guide

The following appears on AmbiEntrance.

Steely shimmers are steadily pummeled by ethno-percussion as Citadel opens another of Bryn Jones' many Muslimgauze outings. Though Jones passed away two years ago this month, his voluminous body of works lives on, still transporting listeners to those dusky, dusty deserts of his twisted vision. Airier Dharam Hinuja (4:55) evokes the shifting of sands (and perhaps other subversive political shiftings as well).

Spoken samples (and later, wails) are filtered into the surreptitious percussion of Masawi Wife & Child (7:31); the beats here prefer shadowy stealth (and a bit of electronic sleight-of-hand) over straightforward bludgeoning. Having been previously exposed to the Infidel CDEP, its wheezy chimes and cinematic atmospheres seemed quite familiar, though in busily welcome way. Shakers occasionally shake as bassy drumskins are rapped and tapped amid Ferdowsi's darkly resonant spaces.

review by Link O'Rama (a.k.a. David J. Opdyke)
This review originally appeared on AmbiEntrance March, 2001

The following appeared in Rate Your Music.

This is quite a nice one by Muslimgauze. The recordings made on the Australian 'Extreme' label were the smoothest and prettiest of their entire catalogue. You could listen to this in your bed at night without the terrifying screeches and distortion of later years. A far cry from the 'Total War Music' that would follow. It's funny to think that Muslimgauze sounded somewhat mechanical back in the early 90's. Not something I'd associate them with at all. If you like a less threatening, but still strangely intense Muslimgauze this could be or you.

reviewed by Dobermensch   
Rate Your Music
(April 10, 2009)

The following appeared in Rate Your Music.

Going into a Muslimgauze album, one sort of knows what to expect even before pressing play, for the guy wasn't that big into formal self-reinvention: here, as in a good chunk of his other output, Middle Eastern-tinged themes unfold untiringly in roomy spaces, supported by a robust industrial scaffolding of thrumming rhythms, clangs and scraps, carrying the Arabic-flavoured swirls of droning melodies forward. All this adds up to a heady and addictive concoction equal parts scummy ambiance straight from the gutters and deeply intimate electronic meditations; a wicked techno-prayer that wouldn't sound so out of place blaring from some post-apocalyptic club in Tehran. Add to the mix a pinch of political agitprop (which, ultimately, seemed to be his main concern; let's not forget that Bryn Jones' first and foremost preoccupation laid in the perennial conflicts shaking the Eastern world, and his music was mainly a vehicle to voice his frustration at this state of affairs) and you'd get something approaching this album. Citadel, his n-th release under the Muslimgauze moniker doesn't wrong foot the listener in that regard: we know what we came here for, and Muslimgauze duly obliges.

Luckily for us, despite the fact that curve balls in Muslimgauze's career are not that common, we can always rest assured that, even though what he gives us is, it'd seem, the billionth variation on the same theme, derivative boredom for the sake of pushing a political agenda is not something Jones ever stooped to. His albums are evidently works of love from a restless and over productive mind, and they maintain a surprisingly decent quality throughout. Citadel is no exception.

Apropos of his work, I've seen the cringe-inducing label ‘tribal ambient', that often abused and somewhat pretentious-sounding tag, batted around a lot, something that, were it used to describe any other artist, I'd view somewhat askance; I dare to say the label was created to illustrate his music, and particularly this album. Throughout this 45-minute journey we find ourselves plunged square on the dusky streets of war-torn Near East, by means of cold, relentless beats much like bombs dropping with the regularity of a metronome; by the use of half-formed snippets of foreign voices wafting from some open window nearby while Muslim chants wrestle blissfully here and there to break through the stark jumble of earthy synths and tribal cymbals, seemingly the one leitmotif stringing the songs together to form what seems (and probably is) almost a concept album, free flowing and unified; a strange, mostly lowkey racket streaming directly from the heart of Gaza filtered through the cold machinery of modern dance music.

Stepping into Citadel is entering a foreign world where romantic notions of Orientalism mingle with the more familiar tropes of the dance club, a grotesque but considered pastiche that shouldn't work in theory, but that somehow, through Jones' mastery of form and expert guiding through this strange balancing act, does, and in an amazingly refreshing way. Muslimgauze was one of those artists who could do no wrong; yes, some albums of his are better known than others (and deservedly so), but diving deep into his archives doesn't mean an assured plunge in quality. With Citadel, Muslimgauze evidently defied the old axiom of letting the market sort out the wheat from the chaff: though unknown to most, this hidden gem overflows with quality, in what, to me, represents the high-water mark in a sprawling and long lasting career, a true legacy to the genius of an artist taking shit from no one while staking out new ground into unknown territory.

reviewed by Adriel F. (DeaArtio)    
Rate Your Music
(July 26, 2019)

see also Blue Mosque & Citadel, Citadel & Infidel & Citadel & Zul'm

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Citadel  Citadel  (promo)
September 29, 2020