United States of Islam
The melding of Muslimgauze has been, for nearly ten years, been a vision of Arabia, taking ethnic instruments and melding their sounds into our culture. Layers of percussion produce entrancing rhythms, weaving a path through dense and sparse textures that evoke a country full of mystique and conflict. For over sixty minutes the tempo and mood shift effortlessly to carry the listener on a hypnotic journey. The pounding bass drum continues relentlessly, uncompromisingly, as it beats for a modern cause.
"United States of Islam" is Manchester based Muslimgauze's second release on Extreme. The first, "Intifaxa" (XCD-002), caused audience and critics alike to stop and take notice:
"At its best it is chillingly hypnotic" - Chris Brayshaw, Disorder
"An evocation of a land that is to us more imagined than real, it is fascinating" - Virginia Trioli, The Age
"Mind warping liquid trance noise" - Dan Maryon, Option
Muslimgauze continue to create intricate and subtle rhythms embedded in moving atmospheres which express universally the situation in Arabic lands, now highlighted by the Gulf conflict. The plight of these people will always need a voice. That voice is the music of Muslimgauze.
Press release from Extreme.
The following appeared in Option.
For the past six years or so this group has pursued music that is based primarily in percussion and Middle Eastern stylings. While 63 minutes is too big a dose for me, listening to a few cuts at a time is rewarding. The percussion is mysterious, evocative, and sometimes dazzling. This ain't no disco, nor is it ritualistic drumming; it is drumming that tells stories. Various samples and subtle electronic effects - bits of singing, soft winds, gentle ringing, low drones, muffled voices, etc. -weave into the percussion. Though I have not heard much Muslimgauze, I can say that the percussion work and its intricate mating with electronics is superior to the group's earlier efforts. This record is dedicated to Palestinians killed on Black Monday at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and features the Percussion Ensemble of Iran.
[On a purely political note, it's worth pointing out that the booklet for this CD states explicitly that "support for the P.L.O. has been a source of influence upon the music of Muslimgauze.". Such a direct endorsement of political terrorism (and by implication, anti-Semitism) should not go un-remarked in this review. - Options Ed.)
review by Tom Grove
This text originally appeared in Option magazine (issue # 41).
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The following appeared on Concept.
Listeners will feel a light evolution in this album. The synthetic rhythms are clothed and take a closer pace to the western vision of the Oriental music.
review by Cyrille Sottile
translation by T @ The Edge with the use of Power Translator
The following appears in All Music Guide.
Armed with a cleverly provocative title, United showcases a moodier side of Muslimgauze; while the trademark blend of driving percussion and minimalism reigns supreme as always, the general feel is much more dreamy and mysterious than on some of Bryn Jones' more forthright pieces. "United States of Islam (pt. 1)" begins things on this front quite well, with an expertly crafted combination of drumming and other beats, combined with bells and other lighter tones, as a low, rumbling keyboard drone and soft vocal samples lurks deep in the mix. The subtle but still powerful shifts in the pace of the track, as instruments are added or subtracted or at times completely dropped out, make it one of his best. The remaining numbers essentially play around with this same basic formula, some to better effect than others, but all at least sounding pretty sharp. "Red Crescent (pt. 1)" in particular has a great start, with a variety of percussion sounds slowly building up to the point where a muted techno pulse suddenly begins. As always, the politics are found outside the music; song titles offer subtle tributes to "Muslims of China," a group which has at times suffered persecution from the Beijing government, and "Xiao," the area where most Muslims in that country dwell.
review by Ned Raggett
All Music Guide
The following appears on Metamorphic Journeyman.
If like me your first impression of Muslimgauze has been of their political ideals you may be forgiven for pre-judging this album as a vehicle for their political views. This may have put me off, as the aforementioned beliefs are rather radical but let me assure you that this album has no actual lyrics to it, and the only voices heard are those snatches from Radio Rabbat which occasionally poke through.
The album opens with "United States Of Islam (Pt 1)", a ten minute piece of percussion and noise. The whole structure transforms and mutates stopping and starting if and when it likes. Apart from a vocal loop mixed to a miles distance, and a warn hum, the entire range of instruments used are percussive. "Xiao" opens with nasty snarly noises and indiscernible vocals. This once more becomes a percussion track - an easy little pigeon-hole to pop it into, yet there's so much more to it - the amount of different sounds used, and the complexity in which they are arranged makes one's head spin. The two sounds which really stand out are a regularly used cylinder-as-gong, and a bassy tuned drum, around which a barely finite number of hitable things are hit. "Red Crescent (Pt 1)" comes next - again a percussive track, but this one's got a sitar sample / loop and lots of echo on the drums which causes them to cascade in avalanche rolls. This time the obviously-repeated sound is some kind of gong with a short decay time. Next up comes "Muslims Of China" a thudding bass drum driving the track without pause while a vast selection of other drums snap, crack, crash and smash whenever they want to, improvisation which still seems somehow as if it wants to conform, although no one could accuse Muslimgauze of following easy patterns. Full of small surprises - sustained echoes which themselves form other forms of percussion. The next track is "Red Crescent (Pt 2)" which enters the world riding a sustained, almost ambient hum. It's perhaps even looser, more free-form than the other tracks, yet it seems to retain a certain tension, a sense of threat, or of impending danger. The last track on the album, and the shortest one, clocking in at a mere 9'45" is "United States Of Islam (Pt 2)" - a more upbeat version of the first track, with the same 'running water' sounds and percussion, although a bass drum's steady thump-thump-thump keeps it together a lot more. It could be considered a dub version - the vocal samples & slices have echo-a-plenty. And as per usual, their 1001 percussive sounds weave in and out of each other, making ever-moving patterns.
Muslimgauze rarely use anything but percussion. This doesn't seem to limit then or what they do, although it does make the music travel in an unswerving straight line. This is no criticism - the World would probably be better off with more like Muslimgauze. Trance music for the Fast Lane.
review by Antony Burnham
February 3, 2017