Abu Nidal

The following appears in All Music Guide.

Dedicated to the PLO and named after one of the most notorious (or alternately most heroic) Palestinian fighters of the time, Abu Nidal is one of the better Muslimgauze releases, creating rich, deep music from the basic sources of Arabic and other Muslim backgrounds. The title track immediately commands attention here; while Muslimgauze always had a knack for instant, spot-on atmospherics, "Abu Nidal" stands out as one of the best examples of his talent. Its drifting, sensuous wind sounds and synths create a lovely drone web behind the relentless but not overpowering live percussion drive, all of which is occasionally accentuated by a counterpoint rhythm of bells or other drums. "Green is the Color of the Prophet" takes a slightly gentler approach to the same basic form, but one that's just as striking; it's an ominous dance hinting at something not quite right, while still alive with the joy of performance. "Fatwa" is perhaps the most immediately "Western" of the tunes, if only because of its more straightforward drum machine punch and pound, almost more akin to contemporaneous Wax Trax! releases, though entirely lacking in guitars. With the sidelong "Gulf War" as the remaining song on the album, Abu Nidal is both a fine piece of music and a masterful piece of political agitprop.

review by Ned Raggett
All Music Guide

The following appeared on Rate Your Music.

I'm yet to hear Iran and Uzi, but I think this is the best of Muslimgauze's 80s albums. Hiding under the rather shocking artwork and title (as someone pointed out, putting out a record in 1987 called Abu Nidal would be similar to putting out a record called Osama Bin Laden in 2002) is a dark, atmospheric, repetitive blend of tribal techno.

Now, let's talk about the word "repetitive" here. When it comes to music, it is most often used with a negative connotation. Muslimgauze's music has changed my view on this, and made me question - why exactly do we label repetition in music as something undesirable or inferior? If something sounds good, why not repeat it so that you can immerse yourself more in the piece without being distracted by section jumps or unwanted progressions? I'm sure anyone has experienced a moment where you hear a song which has some short, maybe only 30-second long instrumental section or coda, and you just think "damn, I wish this went on for thee times longer".

In the context of Muslimgauze's music, repetition plays a huge role, and it's something that his art is most often criticised for. And I agree, this kind of thing sometimes works and sometimes doesn't - see my review of his album Mazar-i-Sharif which describes the latter. What about Abu Nidal, this record definitely belongs to the former.

Gulfwar, a sprawling piece in three parts which occupies the whole first side of the record, is majestically repetitive. Starting with an ambient hum, a lone trumpet call and an excerpt of unmistakeably Arab singing, the piece soon evolves into a mesmerising, complex percussive pattern, featuring interplay between different drums and some shimmering, starry sound, all evoking a haunting image of the post-sunset twilight above the Gulf. The music benefits from its murky, lo-fi sound, which only adds to the dreamlike atmosphere; heavy reverberation creates a distinct feeling of a large building with high ceilings. The piece becomes more and more stripped down as it progresses - the second part sounds more hesitant that insistent, while the third one delves into a more tense, dark and threating soundscape.

The second side goes deeper into the night - Abu Nidal features soaring washes of sound which again create a great feeling of space, while Green Is The Colour Of The Prophet has perhaps the most mind-boggling drum pattern on the album, along with some mysterious washes of ambience which indeed evoke almost a religious-like feeling in me. Ancient temples in the most remote mountain ranges come to mind, towering against the starry sky. It's really great how Muslimgauze combines these two elements - the percussion and the ambience - they complement each other to a great extent. Fatwa is even more soaring and ominous, featuring a rapid techno beat and creepy half-whispering voices in the distance.

This album has nothing to do with hippies or what you would normally call "psychedelic", of course, but this word is totally apt when it comes to the mysterious hypnotism of this album, seemingly existing within its own nocturnal, ghostly dimension. A great listen for those not afraid of the dark.

muslimgauze_reviews (May 8, 2018)
Rate Your Music

see also Coup d'état/Abu Nidal

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Abu Nidal Coup d'Etat/Abu Nidal

January 9, 2017