Speaking With Hamas (compilation)

The following appeared on StarVox.

As you probably know by now, if you've been reading the previous Muslimgauze reviews on StarVox, Bryn Jones is no longer with us, corporeally speaking, but his music continues, thankfully, to wade out into the sea of ears. Perhaps this particular CD is best described by its liner notes, which read: "A collection of limited edition series of 1996, selected by Muslimgauze. This CD to be permatly [sic] available to people who don't deserve it" and "A tourist asked Ali Muhamad, a second-hand camel salesman, why camels look so dam [sic] supercilious. The Arabs know 99 names for God but only the camel knows the 100th." If these statements seem somehow simultaneously obscure and profound, then you're beginning to have an appreciation for Muslimgauze. As always, the music here is luxuriously crafted, to the point of being painstakingly layered and structured; a house of cards, a fantastically difficult and mournfully delicious dessert. Not to be missed, even for those of us who will never deserve it.

review by Kirin
This review originally appeared on StarVox Issue 6 January, 2000

The following appeared in Freq E-zine.

Culled personally by Bryn Jones from his extremely limited edition run of albums in 1996 for Staalplaat, Speaking With Hamas brings together some great moments of unique, politically-charged music. Celebrating the struggle and cultures of the Arabic and Islamic (and specifically Palestinian) peoples through sampling of their music could have seemed demeaning, pretentious or yet another form of cultural expropriation, but Muslimgauze never pretended to "authenticity" or even to be of the faith. Instead, what shines through is Dub without Reggae made into a shimmeringly delayed haze of sprightly clanking strings, rattly percussion, and intriguing domestic recordings, with an unwaveringly single-minded commitment to the cause and imaginative depiction of a people far removed from Jones' Manchester home.

Where so many Ambient, Fourth World outfits get wishy-washy in their combination of Western and Islamic samples and sounds, opting for the easily danceable or the cod-exotic spicing up of the already-dull or obvious, Muslimgauze casts deeper into the undertow of a virtual Middle East, a non-specific world of faintly menacing otherness. Titles such as "Return Of Black September", "Palestine Is Our Islamic Land" and "Anti-Arab Media Censor" both set the scene and bait the preconceptions or apparent certainties of Western audiences. The muttered and half-glimpsed radio voices in particular give the feel of an eavesdropped dream, while the stately, rumbling bass sets up chromatic tendrils of edgy unease. The combination of winding sputtering electronic loops with the heavily-effected percussion of "Thuggee" stands out especially as an example of the dynamics of reverberating delay and the interjection of what sounds like a heavy object being dragged across the studio floor, offset with a hypnotic flurry of cymbal trails, metallic chattering and half-heard background words.

Overall, the mood of Speaking With Hamas is a combination of the blissfully estranged and the obsessively grim. Not music for those in search of blandly-grabbed World Music ambience, this CD is also not really for those who prefer to regard other cultures as either inscrutable or unassailable through a misguided belief in untouchable purity. As a selection of highlights (with bonus track "Shaheed" to tempt any collector persistent enough to own all the source albums) of one year's worth of a stupendously prolific career it's an impressive release indeed.

review by Freq1C
Freq E-zine

The following comes from Muze.

Though a Manchester resident with no demonstrable Middle Eastern ties, the late Bryn Jones was inspired by the culture, mystique, and alluring iconography of the Islamic world. His Muslimgauze recordings are similarly fraught with contradiction. Jones' inflexible pro-Palestinian bias overshadowed a uniquely passionate music that demonstrates tempers other than the hot hatred reflected in title tributes to notorious terrorists and violent political factions. Furthermore, Jones appreciated his devoted fans, but he released material in such volume as to alienate and intimidate all but the most zealous enthusiast.

While Jones never wavered in his political stance, he occasionally showed begrudging mercy to overwhelmed Muslimgauze followers. Speaking With Hamas, an offering "to be permanently available to people who don't deserve it", is the third collection compiled from the limited, much-desired Muslimlim series. Hamas downplays Jones' distorted hand-drum hip-hop leanings (heard in dissipated form in "Deceiver") in favor of atmospheric excursions strafed by siroccos of noise, electronic rhythms, Semitic voices, and disembodied samples ("Thuggee," "Anti-Arab Media Censor"). The disc is the gentlest introduction yet to Jones' intoxicating oeuvre, playing up the dub-damaged dune ambience aspect embodied in "Devour," "Return of Black September," and the unreleased "Shaheed."

Muze

The following appeared on AmbiEntrance.

A hand-picked collection for non-fans, these tracks were culled from 1996 Muslimgauze limited editions by Bryn Jones himself especially for "people who don't deserve it", i.e. those who don't otherwise listen. Regardless, Speaking With Hamas is recommended listening as it captures some of the most expanse vignettes in the long line of Muslimgauze releases.

The cinematic moodiness of Devour seems to surge between various scenes of some Arabic film. Bolstered by echoey scatters of percussion and a gritty drone, flash-by vocal snippets and other audio snapshots serpentine around the listeners ears. Headphones are highly recommended for this particularly involving production. Palestine is our Islamic Land follows with a similar, though not as effective, approach. Yet another darkly simmering panorama of Middle-Eastern-flavored intrigue, Return of black September boils within a deep drum-and-drone chorus, accented with shifting currents, ominous outbursts and assorted samples.

Jangling strings and whispered vocals are only part of the dense, convoluted mix of Thugee (18:02); also heard are rippling beats, vocal chants, clattering cymbals, musical pulsations, feedback waves, and more. Brief and buzzy, 12 Azzazin's (1:59) wavers electronically without any real beats, though receives rhythmic effects and samples before abruptly cutting off. A chaotic machine-like commotion and ringing bleeps all but obliterate the spoken telecast words of Anti-Arab Media Censor. Throbbing drumbeats temporarily replace the din with a thunder of their own.

Less overt, Deceiver delivers an airier assortment of ethnic instrumentation, beats, flutes, crickets and hushed spoken bits. Bonus track Shaheed rounds out the collection with another (relatively) quiet affair. Murky voices occasionally yell amid hazy gongs and spaciously echoing drums.

Even as Bryn Jones is posthumously rubbing these pieces in the noses of non-listeners, it cannot be denied that he'd chosen some of his finer moments with which to rub. These Muslimgauze tracks are from his most cinematic takes, efficiently weaving ethnic music, sound samples and experimental effects into the scenic shroud that is Speaking With Hamas. An appreciative 9.0 rating.

review by David J. Opdyke
This review originally appeared on AmbiEntrance January 26, 2000

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January 11, 2017