Kashmiri Queens

The following appeared in Incursion Publishing.

A new release for the limited edition series of Muslimgauze discs from Staalplaat. This one is limited to 1000 copies, and features eleven unnamed tracks across its sixty minutes of music. Once again, the packaging is a beauty to behold: a neat rainbow foil treatment is given to the front and back of the jewel case, with a thick-cut insert card featuring a haunting, faceless group of women. All the standard Muslimgauze elements present here, but this release sees a more steady approach to his sound. Far less of the abrupt cutting in and out he had favoured for a good while, and more of a concentrated approach to the music. He lets the sounds linger a good while longer than usual here, and while not ambient in nature, there are lingering passages of sound that surface from the mix and take centre stage. The beats take a back seat this time around, though they are still a prominent part of the proceedings. Track 9 is completely beatless, and a prime example of the drama Muslimgauze can pull out of a hat - the looped and distorted vocal excerpt is taken and twisted over a push-and-pull two-note melody. There's a soft bass thumping in the distance, and the whole piece is given a tattered reverberation technique. The tracks here are all rather clean sounding, especially in comparison to the last in the limited series, Muslimlim 028, which was more of a gritty, fuzzed-up affair. It's a direction I like to see in his work, as more attention can be given to the instrumentation and composition, both of which are in fine form here.

review by Vils di Santo
Incursion Publishing (issue 30 June 24, 2001)

The following was submitted by the author.

Representing one of the most prolific and consistent 'electronic' groups around, Bryn continues to pump out the offspring of his creative obsessions far beyond the grave. This, his thirty-fifth posthumous release maintains the pattern: similar to previous releases with enough distinctions to make it an additional must-have. The continuity of Kashmiri Queens is subtle yet striking. The palette of colors and 'instruments' that Bryn uses on this release are pretty much the same throughout the album, yet their variety of use is intriguing. An accordion-like instrument (perhaps an electronic Indian harmonium?) provides a drone in the second track (the songs go nameless on this release)--which is slowly amplified, advancing like a tidal wave - until it subsides in the mix, punctuated by the repeated sample of a man's trilled war-cry. This same instrument acts as a solo voice, issuing a prominent melody over the reggae-influenced rhythms of the eighth track. Percussion instruments like tablas and unpitched metallic drums are used throughout the disc, but with numerous treatments. On some tracks they offer a soft rippling support; a minimalist latticework through which samples, melodies, and other sound events trickle down. On other tracks they become harsh and trebly, buried under the distortion of high-frequencies they themselves produce. The album maintains its fluidity of motion throughout, with similar rhythms and a consistent tempo which bring to mind traversing a short expanse of desert by horse or camel. This rhythmic sense frames the album as well, with the same song introducing and closing the CD; an imploded percussion track played backwards beneath jingling snippets of what sounds like a processed Egyptian reed instrument. Following the desert motif, track nine must be the shimmering oasis. Hypnotic textures gently cascade and intertwine, bathing you in a lexicon of tone-color. Phasing and pan effects continually replenish this unexpected jewel, creating a cleansing spiritual stasis as essential as breathing. Limited to 1,000 copies and featuring ribbons of rainbow colored oil-stained chrome text emblazoned directly onto the jewel case over a gray silk-textured background of rows of robed women bowed in prayer - Kashmiri Queens is an impressive document, guaranteed to satiate until the next Muslimgauze fix becomes available.

review by Ryan McKay

The following appeared in the &etc newsletter.

The latest Muslimgauze release shows that even the labels have a little difficulty with the volume of music - described as new material from their backlog of tapes, it was noted on the Muslimgauze list that four tracks are from the 1995 vinyl EP 'Nadir of Purdah'. But as that is not very available, it's good to have those pieces along with some others which would appear to be really previously unreleased. As expected, Staalplaat have designed a lovely case - the card is dark and heavy, black inside, silver-print outside, with a picture of a mass of head-clothed women. The front case has Muslimgauze and the title engraved and multi-colour printed, while on the back "Kashmiri Queens" in Jones' scrawl is similarly printed over some Arabic (saying the same?). Lovely, and the music inside is stunning: I was disappointed by the last release, but this combines all my favourite aspects of the man - strong rhythms, mesmerising length, varied instrumentation and some playful experiments.

No tracks are titled: The opener takes a squelched Muslimgauze beat, the attack and decay messed with, adds some horns which come and go, and a generally choppy air. And in a nice balance a similar sort of assaulted beat occurs in the last track, with another gentler wind instrument. Track 2 opens with a cry, which recurs at irregular intervals throughout, tabla and shakers join in and finally an accordion. This plays a rhythmic melody and then stretches into drones and back, developing complex layers, it then becomes dominant creating a low drone, pulsing drones, melodic lines and dense chords - absolutely magnetic for its ten minutes. It then returns in track 8 where it joins slow full rhythms and again lays down long overlapping chords and similar melodic burst. An accordion/harmonium appears in 6 where it is the vibrato main element in the central section, while the rhythm base (extending through the whole track) is slow and complex.

The third track loops drums and bells, together with a percussive trill, then a female singer, and then a strange extended note (perhaps a manipulated sample, a bullroarer, didgeridoo?) with some scattered pieces: the female and this tone swap foreground, while the trill and tone become more strident. 4 is simpler, a drum-loop with sussurus is joined by a backwards orchestral loop: it all seems stuck and then breaks out into a broader rhythm, the orchestra goes tinny and then quiet, before reforming with a crackle, which takes the fade. In five a typical tabla rhythm, with a couple of female lines, is surrounded by sqirls and blurts which gradually coalesce to become a dense feedback storm.

Seven has a metallic tapping loop as the basis forming a rubbery rhythm with the tabla, within this there is a string instrument which almost emerges a couple of times. Shades of Severed Heads or very early Muslimgauze in 9 where a voice loop (an extended 'Arrrr') is chopped and cycled over a bed synth and shimmery electro - brief but sweet. The penultimate track is another long one (there are 2 about 10, 4 around 2-3, the rest 5-6) which plays around with three layers: a metal loop (da ditya da) rather like 7, the tabla and a zither, coming and going in a moody piece of minimal Muslimgauze.

As I said, a nice mixture of material - as usual the rhythms and layers are played around with (coming and going, some minimal dubby-looping, slight manipulation) keeping your interest in the longer pieces, while the variety in the shorter ones covers some ground. As very few are likely to own 'Nadir of Purdah', this should be a sought after disk (1000 in the edition), and is also a good disk for the new listener.

reviewed by Jeremy Keens
Originally appeared in &etc 2001_14.
Reproduced by permission.

The following originally appeared in Vital.

Latest release in Staalplaat's Muslimlim-series finds Muslimgauze in a much more relaxed mood without any abruptions of noisy sound-loops or distorted effects that has saturated some of his latest releases. Just as the abrasive work of Bryn Jones in its powerfulness is a great listening experience, it is equally a pleasure to explore an album like "Kashmiri Queens" where the music is much more continuous rather than cut-up-based in its expression. Consequently the ten untitled tracks of "Kashmiri Queens" seems more authentic since the sounds of tablas, sitars and various ethnic wind instruments is allowed to flourish openly without being cut-up. One track takes a step off the path with its floating ambient-style that gives a clue of how a collaboration between Muslimgauze and chill-out legend Mixmaster Morris a.k.a. Irresistible Force would have sounded like. Otherwise the music is nicely percussive with only a few vocals appearing throughout the tracks. Despite his slipping away Muslimgauze still seems to be going very well.

reviewed by Niels Mark Pederson
Originally appeared in Vital #288

The following appeared in Freq E-zine.

Built around an intricate maze of harmonium drones, reverbed tape loops and hand percussion, with the Kashmiri Queens of the title presumably referring to the wordless vocal samples peppering the 11 untitled tracks. The mood here is occasionally heavy but largely open, as the backdrop shifts relentlessly from the opening expanses of thrumming, wheezing and vocalising into more electronically-treated elements as the rhythms become tighter and more mechanistic, especially when based on what sounds like clattering scissor loops.

There's plenty of dynamics available in the sound of a harmonium alone, as the rush of air through the reeds sets up its own internal rhythms, which Bryn Jones manipulates to greater or lesser extent on the majority of the tracks to counterpoint the steady groove of the beats, both taped and real.

His occasional yelps and throaty utterances convey an ecstatic state and perhaps anger too, but overall the mood is more meditative than militant. As with the ritual Nyabinghi drumming of the Rastas, the circling hypnosis offered by the percussion soon promotes inward listening, and Kashmiri Queens jogs along more than pleasantly on a wave of shifting drop-outs and synthetic ethnography. Anyone wanting a Muslimgauze album with less harsh manipulations and plenty of immersive trance qualities than some of the recent archival unearthings could do worse than obtaining this one, and then setting it on repeated shuffle play to accompany a few well-chosen herbs and spices.

review by Antron S. Meister
Freq E-zine

The following appeared in Chainlink D.L.K..

This review is part of a bunch of reviews of older material that we haven't had time to review before but which is still available at the label's mailorder. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Muslimgauze is probably the most prolific artist I have ever known. Even after his sad death some years ago his music keeps coming out, mainly on Staalplaat, who I think owns his rights and even created a special subdivision called Muslimlim for his many releases. "Kashmiri Queens" is a more mass-friendly release, as it is faster and has less overtones than previously. The backbone of the music is mainly drone/raga samples with ethnic percussions.

The art work is truly special (lots of printed material inside and the name and title is like fire-branded on the jewel case plastic and reflects the same rainbow shades that you would see on a drop of car gas on the street, if you know what I mean) and is limited to 1000 copies so get your own if you are a fan.

review by Marc Urselli-Schaerer
Chainlink D.L.K. (April 9, 2002)

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