In Search Of Ahmad Shah Masood

The following appeared on the Hyperreal Ambient List.

With Gescom having issued what I believe was the first MiniDisc only album several months before the release of this one, I was interested to discover what Muslimgauze might do with the format and, after several months of searching, finally located a copy. What I found was quite home made - an unlabelled Sony recordable MD housed in a long MD jewel case with what seems to be color laser printed artwork - and into the player it went, where the display read 4 tracks, 30 minutes program time, and, alas, no disc or track titles, although given the torment of entering such things on a portable recorder one can certainly forgive this lack, as I doubt anyone at Staalplaat really wants to enter titles for 300 separate discs (the total run of this instalment in the limited subscription series) using the standard four-key interface. After some crunching preliminaries of digital and analog distortion, a rather mellow and - dare I say? - groovy album follows, in which the expected percussion beds are rolled around (and certainly not slept) upon by a succession of inescapably funky synthetic bass lines. In Part 1 I am almost tempted to suspect that an alien data stream from the Peter Thomas Orchester Planet (or that rogue sound system in the Barry/Schifrin Asteroid Belt) was interpolated with that from Manchester, and the oozing copfunk conjures less Kabul (where it appears the title character was previously employed as defense minister, if my cursory web research is reliable) than McGarrett's Hawaii, as viewed through the tinted glass of a late-model squad car in uniform flares and sideburns, but by Part 3 the twitchy bass lines find themselves extruded from the backsides of twittering metallic insects, the flares shed for something a bit more thorn proof in a desert hue. Making this writhing noise even more interesting is the fact that Muslimgauze - or perhaps Staalplaat - has exploited the oddities of the MD compression scheme to bizarre effect, pushing the recording levels past the distortion threshold (my machine registered a nearly constant 0 db) and further volatilizing the already implosive sonic cocktail with strange phase relationship changes and frequency dropouts, the artefact of ATRAC's attempts to compress the overloads as acoustic events. The releases in the subscription series have tended to take the form of sketchbooks, and <Masood> seems no exception, although hearing it now for the first time mere weeks after Bryn Jones' untimely death, it saddens me that we may never hear the completed works for which these four tracks are likely early studies in a developing style. At the same time, it is felicitous for both musicians and listeners that such work can now be made available on recordable MD (and in other cases by way of CDR and MP3), allowing the more direct dissemination of Muslimgauze's musical message through the subversion of standard means of production and distribution.

Altogether a strange and delicious concoction.

review by Joshua Maremont
This review originally appeared on the Hyperreal Ambient List (May, 1999)

The following appeared in Leeson.

Bryn Jones, who increasingly provides sensation with his Manchester project and its gigantic output, moves with this four-piece homage (on MiniDisc), into the proximity of the driving aggressive-dirty rhythmic of "Izlamaphobia" (Muslimlim 001).No retro or other nostalgic melancholy, rather a consistent driving forward of beats and loops to the conceptual climax of the "Pt. 4", which pours over scarcely 10 minutes. Since the creativity of Jones doesn't reduce itself to brachiale alone outbreaks, still another recently published quasi-harmonious counterpoint is recommended: "Mullah Said" [Muslimlim/Staalplaat]. Or for that matter, which may itself go rhythmically in the heart of the current fundamentalist raving Afghanistan: "Mazar I Sharif" [Staalplaat]. Do it!

review by FS
Leeson (Issue #9 December, 1998)

The following appeared on Islamaphonia 2.

In Search Of Ahmad Shah Masood (ISOASM) was released during a period of intense focus for Muslimgauze. The tracks sizzle and crackle with a fervent static charged momentum. All four tracks are distinct and bare little resemblance to one another. The common ingredient that binds the four is the noisy square wave bass that keeps time and holds the rest of each track in check.

As with other releases, there are dropouts, short circuits, noisy exclamations, and distorted overdriven peaks. The music itself stands simultaneously and yet indecisively near earlier ethnic world music percussion and relentless, seething up tempo snares. There are a few recognizable dub influences although one could argue the bass lines more clearly resemble Jamaican dance hall than Dub.

Part 1 is the more subdued track of them all and features a more hypnotic percussion and warm, distorted bass. Part 2 is a wild ride along with the hungry desert predators. Part 3 has a very playful lead formed seemingly from pure electricity reminiscent of Azzazin. Part 4 offers the most Dub/Dance hall influences and is heavily bass driven while maintaining an African feel to the percussion. As with the previous track, Bryn has tamed electricity enough to function as a lead that cutely surfaces and coyly hops between higher and lower octaves. Interestingly, the tracks could easily have been split at other points making these 7 or 8 distinct tracks since there is so much variety and the breaks lend themselves to track separations.

Regarding the title, Ahmad Shah Masood (or “Ahmadshah Massoud”) was an Afghan anti-Taliban commander and the Deputy President and Defense Minister of Afghanistan. Prior to that he fought against the Russian invasion and in the civil war conflicts in his country. He was known simultaneously by various parties as a national hero, a butcher, a leader and a warlord.

Mr Masood was assassinated in his northern Afghan stronghold on September 9, 2001 by individuals thought to have been funded by the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. After his death, he was nominated by a group within the French Parliament for the Nobel Peace Prize.

review by Ares Solis
Islamaphonia 2 Mailing List

The following appeared in Freq.

In Search Of Ahmad Shah Masood is a rerelease of an album which previously appeared on Staalplaat, here again as a limited edition, this time of 500. There have beens some stunning covers on Muslimgauze releases in the past, but Ukrainian label Nexsound have surpassed them all here: the heavyweight card gatefold packaging is superb, traced in embossed bold black and silver lines in a beautiful Arabic-modernist style. The ink itself if fragrant with a sweet, heady industrial printing smell, adding further to the sensual delight the object itself engenders.

So much for the fetishising of presentation: the recording comes in four bass-laden parts, the underlying rolling rhythm swaying to those sharp percussive beats while Jones switches the hisses and rattles in and out of the mix. This anti-melody of unsettling clips and drop outs becomes familiar in times, if never losing the ability to disturb the otherwise regular loops. If it wasn’t for the unspooling grooves, interrupted as they are, it would be difficult to tell if the CD player was skipping or not – or if the master tape was caught in the spindles. This capacity for foregrounding the process of production is a hallmark of Muslimgauze releases around this time (the later Nineties – Ahmad Shah Masood dates from 1997) and Part One trembles under the pressure, halting before complete disintegration sets in.

Part Two ups the level of distension and distortion considerably, with only the bright percussive hits and occasional shards of processed/looped reeds keeping the track from entering the realms of sub-bass noise more typical of minimalist Drill and Bass extremism. As such, at over eight minutes of increasing intensity and layered repetition, it does almost manage to outstay its welcome, but a bit like (figuratively) banging one’s head against a brick wall, there is a certain satisfaction in the release that comes with termination. The frying pan sounds expand further into Part Three, as does a certain level of digitally-eviscerated, even hip-swaying funkiness; sounding like it was recorded inside the bass bins of a very small club with the levels turned up beyond tolerable into into the realms of punctured eardrums and loosened bowels. For Part four, the dynamics are enhanced by dubs which drop the fearsome noise levels down and bring them back as the clarity of a new basic percussion loop ebbs and flows into yet further areas of trebly distortion and groovable noise which recede in density if not dissonance. The conclusion is little short of genius, as squittering mid-range interference patterns buzz around the speeding-up rhythms like a helicopter full of bees falling into a seemingly endless semi-controlled nosedive. In Search Of Ahmad Shah Masood is a supremely physical listening experience, particularly in the latter half of the disc, and a pinnacle of the Muslimgauze sound at its most beautifully dirty.

In these times of an alleged “clash of civilizations” and neo-colonial wars, even to release this sort of material in the United States (and, increasingly, Europe) is probably tantamount to inviting the suspicion of the DHS and internal security agencies, so Soleilmoon, Staalplaat (who have had pressing plants refuse to produce CDs in the past) and Nexsound are to be applauded for their continuing commitment to keeping Muslimgauze releases flowing.

review by Richard Fontenoy
First appeared in Freq magazine (August 11, 2006).

The following appeared on Boomkat.

Spicy Muslimgauze digital reissue, originally released on Minidisc in 1998. This is Bryn Jones in noisy mode, operating right at the biting point with a secret blend of distorted studio 'erbs. In four parts he wrecks some deadly drum loops with excoriating noise pressure, drifting from more meditative, glitch-clipped dub in Part 1 thru some lethal drums and reversed string loop friction in Part 2, onto the deep fried chops of Part 3, and the squashed drum n' noise fruit of Part 4. There are few artists who can hypnotise and sustain our attention with such minimal means as Muslimgauze. This is a prime example.


see also Arabbox, In Search Of Ahmad Shah Masood, Iran Air Inflight Magazine, Jebel Tariq & Red Madrassa

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