Cobra Head Soup

The following appeared on An Adventurer in Text.

I was asked about the latest Staalplaat Muslimgauze archive series release, "Cobra Head Soup" (double LP), a master sent to Staalplaat among many from Bryn Jones as a DAT/CDR. Jones often followed a master a week or two later with another and a note ‘this master replaces the one sent the other week’. Consequently, Staalplaat amassed a collection of ‘replaced’ masters slated for release since Jones’ passing. During Jones’ life, no label or collective thereof could keep up with his prolific output and his passing gave everyone a breather to release at a label pace rather than a ‘devotee’ pace. Some are of the belief that if Jones had a master replaced, then it was not intended for release and should not be. There are also other objections, more having to do with estate arrangements, but this is not the place nor time to get into that. As one of the Muslimgauze archivists, I am eager to listen to and study all Jones’ music and have this paranoia I could have missed a style or texture not documented previously. Besides, Jones was always of the opinion that there was never enough Muslimgauze music in the world. When Staalplaat approached me to do press releases for the Muslimgauze archive series, I jumped at the chance. Geert-Jan Hobijn showed me a stack of masters and educated me on the ways Jones worked. I wrote releases for "Sulaymaniyah" and "Sycophant of Purdah", but current Staalplaat owner Guillaume decided (for whatever reason) to pass on a write-up for this round. I still have the CDR for "Cobra Head Soup" and will geek-out a bit about it here. Archive releases often have pre-released material, or slight variations thereof as Jones habitually made numerous alternate versions of tracks. On occasion, the Archive series does have unreleased gems. The masters for "Cobra Head Soup" were submitted to Staalplaat in 1997 and specially engineered for vinyl by Rashad Becker who is a premier audio engineer in Germany. In fact, Becker used to be in charge of sound and mixing for the live Muslimgauze sets in Germany and it is good someone of his stature lent his expertise on this release. Dub and dubstep enthusiasts will appreciate this release as it fits squarely with albums like "Muslimgauze", "Syrinjia", "City of Djinn", "Return to City of Djinn", and "Ayatollah Dollar", among others. Some tracks may be familiar to those who have "Remixs 2" and "Red Madrassa". One of my favorite tracks here 'Elect Izlamic Jihad' (from "Remixs 2"), a muscular yet menacing panther of a track on the prowl while an Arabic field recording (Quaran? Call to Martyrdom?) intones in the background. The track that provoked my interest most was "Cobra Head Soup" which reminded me of the atmospheric moments on "Sandtrafikar". For lack of a better term, I would call this piece ‘Illbient’–a marketing term from the mid-to-late 90’s that describes a style of music that blends ambient, electronic, hip hop, musique concrete, and dub. Proponents of this style were DJ Spooky, DJ Olive, DJ Wally, Bill Laswell, Subdub, and Byzar among others. "Cobra Head Soup" is a deliciously eerie haunted dub excursion (already) saturated in vinyl record crackles with spacious oud strumming, ghostly atmospherics, and rumbling bass lines. A pretty good release, completists will want it, and c’mon…it’s Muslimgauze on vinyl, man.

review by Ibhrahim Khnider
An Adventurer in Text (July 12, 2009)

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August 18, 2010