Izlamaphobia

The following appeared in The Wire.

The pre-publicity claims Bryn Jones has in some way changed tack while staying true to the Palestinian cause which he has espoused over no end of Muslimgauze discs. Fundamentally, this double CD operation isn't so different. He works up a rhythmic intensity the equal of his best work, though the musical stuff he weaves it from is less overtly Oriental.

Just as the intensity rarely falters, so the problem stays the same: sustaining the non-believer's interest over the duration. The titles, incidentally, tackle common assumptions about Islamic culture.

review by Biba Kopf
This text originally appeared in The Wire magazine (issue # 145).
Reproduced by permission.
The Wire on-line index.

The following appeared in Option.

Percussive and mysterious, Muslimgauze's newest work explores a variant of the trance aesthetic that drives nearly all of his music. The droning tones and percussion patterns that underlie his past recordings are certainly in evidence, but on Izlamaphobia, Muslimgauze takes repetition to new extremes: at several points over the course of this two-CD set, I thought the disc was skipping in its player. The effect is disconcerting -even disorienting. There's a feeling of life out of balance, as if time has stopped and no distinction exists between up and down. Another thing about these tracks is that Muslimgauze has incorporated more forceful rhythm programs, giving the music an exaggerated industrial edge; he's also been exploring electronic textures well away from the presets, lending unique, Aphex Twin-like sounds to his sonic palette. These are helpful, positive touches - without sacrificing the organic warmth of his previous work, Muslimgauze is nurturing a cleaner, more futuristic and experimental sound.

review by Lisa Carr
This text originally appeared in Option magazine (issue # 67).
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The following appeared on Concept.

The nature of these 33 resonant experiences would not be difficult to communicate to those that have not heard them: it is about the apparition of reflection that presents themselves under the shape of an absolute, frozen and sharp engagement like a crystal. Absolutely detached from everything that is life. It is about determinations, not conditioned of a will, that only affirms itself to affirm itself. Separating all mental pictures, all incentive and all feeling. It is finally about an emotional state that appears from the state of rhythmic exaltation or exhaustion, without reason, that seize the soul. Reflecting itself on the spiritual content of infinite grandeur.

review by Cyrille Sottile
translation by T @ The Edge with the use of Power Translator

The following appears in All Music Guide.

First in what continues to be a series of limited-edition subscription-only releases from Staalplaat/Soleilmoon, Izlamaphobia starts with an aggressive blast, "Hudood Ordinance." With a rhythm track consisting of extremely tweaked and processed electronic beats and bleeps, with only the gentlest of Arabic string instruments deep in the mix to relate things to a more familiar Muslimgauze sound, the song sets the general mood for the rest of Izlamaphobia. This said, Bryn Jones' specific talent is such that even without that, this would still sound like him, his trademark care and obsessiveness in terms of percussion again evident. Two discs long and with a variety of romanticized (some might say stereotypical) song titles like "The Eternal Illusionist of Oid Bachdad" and "Lahore Morphine Market," Izlamaphobia has two chief artistic themes, if anything. On the one hand, Jones' incorporation of hip-hop and funk beats has never been stronger, providing songs like "Gilded Madrasa" and "The Public Flogger of Lahore" with a wickedly fierce kick and drive. On the other, the strained, alien treatments on many of the songs would be well at home on innumerable Warp Records releases of the '90s, with squelching rhythms, undanceable dance tracks and, quite unsurprisingly, a desire to avoid expected techno clichés. With these two strains combined on many songs by Jones, the results are wonderfully slamming, strange tracks such as "Khadija and Fereshta." Not everything is quite so dramatically different from past Muslimgauze releases, with the incorporation of multi-layered acoustic percussion cropping up more than once, such as on "Hijab Muzzle." Everything is just that little bit dirtier in sound, though, and all the more intriguing for it. Some tracks are mere snippets and others don't quite deliver on their promise, but all in all Izlamaphobia is yet another Muslimgauze success.

review by Ned Raggett
All Music Guide

The following appears on Brainwashed.

Recently reissued by Staalplaat, this massive 1995 double-album is one of the jewels in Bryn Jones' "industrial phase" and a serious contender for one of the finest albums in the entire Muslimgauze oeuvre.  Naturally, it is packed full of percussion experiments and plenty of obsessive "locked groove" repetition, but Izlamaphobia is unusual among Muslimgauze albums in that Bryn seemed to have had so many great ideas that he did not resort to self-cannibalizing or reworking much at all.  Also, he seemed to have experienced an atypical window of patience and lingered on this album long enough to flesh-out his grooves with some great dub touches rather than just immediately launching into his next project.  Anyone annoyed by the fact that most Muslimgauze songs are just percussion vamps will probably still fail to warm to this release, but Izlamaphobia unquestionably boasts some of the most vibrant and inventive loops of Jones' career.  More importantly, it is simply a great album from start to finish. Staalplaat

As properly befits an album from Muslimgauze's industrial era, Izlamaphobia opens with "Hudood Ordinance," a sputtering, squelching, pummeling, grinding, and metallic percussion work-out that sounds about as machine-like as Muslimgauze ever gets.  After that initial salvo, however, the "industrial" tag starts to seem increasingly inappropriate, as the only thing machine-like about many of the other pieces is the obsessive repetition of their loops.  Izlamaphobia is actually quite an unusual and varied album within the Muslimgauze discography, especially on the second disc, as Jones apparently started to grow weary with his relentless onslaught of grooves and starting exploring some more abstract and experimental themes.  Or maybe he just ran out of cool beats before he had a full double-album.  Regardless of his motivation, he covered an unexpected amount of stylistic territory–just about every phase of Muslimgauze's career bleeds into this album at one point or another.

The best pieces, of course, tend to be the ones that boast the best (and most fully realized) grooves.  In that regard, the propulsively shuffling "Gilded Madrasa" is a definite highlight, as it also benefits from a haunting melodic snippet, an ideal duration, and an impressive knack for dynamics (it never gets boring because elements are quite prone to stuttering or dropping out at unexpected times).  Other highlights include the buzzing tambura and break-beats of "The Public Flogger of Lahore" and the backwards percussion and water-driven pulse of "The Emir of Aqua."  The more bizarre pieces also tend to work quite well.  The best of the lot is probably "The Ottoman Muzeum Of Cherished Momentos," which embellishes its wonderfully clanking and plinking rhythm with an unexpectedly loud exhalation ('80s hip-hop beatboxing, Muslimgauze-style!).  The charmingly titled “Zindan Bug Pit” is yet another strange delight, taking an obsessively repeating metallic percussion pattern and warping it with counter-intuitively treble-heavy EQ and a host of dub-influenced disruptions.

As mentioned earlier, the second disc features an unexpected number of varied divergences from the standard Muslimgauze template.  On a couple of pieces, for example, Bryn plunges wholeheartedly into the disorienting potential of playing loops backwards, most notably with the nightmarish and hallucinatory "The Fragrance Aroma" and the blearily languorous "The Landless of Bazzars."  Jones plays with time yet again on "The Suffocator of Hindustani," slowing a looped tambura motif to a menacing crawl while ratcheting up the hiss and sizzle.  Elsewhere, "The Limb Amputator of Riyadh" resembles nothing less than a hip-hop DJ trying to get a party started in the middle of a tornado.  "The Female Guand of Libya," on the other hand, seems like it has all the makings of the usual Muslimgauze fare, but it is purposely hamstrung by a stalled loop that endlessly maintains a sickly sway that prevents the song from ever moving forward.  None of the more experimental pieces are among the album's best, but all are definitely welcome and none feel like filler.  If anything, they provide welcome contrast for Jones' more beat-driven fare and deepen Izlamaphobia's immersive spell of mystery, exoticism, and increasing unreality (or at least a heavily stylized hyper-reality).

While it unquestionably boasts many more instant classics than most other Muslimgauze albums, the primary appeal of Izlamaphobia lies in experiencing it in its entirety.  There are plenty of inventive, wonderful grooves to be found all over Jones' insanely voluminous discography, but it is truly rare to get to experience such a painstakingly crafted, memorable, and deeply surreal tour of Jones' imagined Middle East.  A few pieces are too beat-centric to make much of a significant impact, but they are in the minority and Jones was a goddamn wizard at weaving shifting and evocative atmospheres here.  I imagine this album is a lot like wandering through a crowded bazaar in an exotic city, but with the beauty and menace both amplified (though the orchids, magicians, and views of the Nile seem a bit outnumbered by the limb amputators, poisoners, suffocators, and floggers, if the song titles are any indication).  If Izlamaphobia has a flaw, it is only the one inherent in every Muslimgauze album: just about every piece is a groove that begins and ends without a hell of a lot of development in between.  That is Muslimgauze though and Izlamaphobia is one of the best (and most sustained) versions of Bryn Jones' unique brilliance around.

review by Anthony D'Amico
Brainwashed (December 6, 2015)

The following appeared in Rate Your Music.

One of the more accessible Muslimgauze albums just like the predecessor 'Silk Noose'. Mostly upbeat in sound with lots of electronic effects and filtered beats throughout. If you can forget the 'chorus - verse' structure of 99% of western music, this is superb. Whenever I listen to Muslimgauze I always think what would have happened in Iraq in 2003 if all the Arabs played this out of their loudspeakers at volume 10 when the Yanks were playing Bruce Springsteen out of theirs! The whole outcome may have been different. This is war music to the death.

reviewed by Dobermensch
Rate Your Music (April 10, 2009)

The following appeared in Rate Your Music.

There is nothing that can describe the very beginning of Hudood Ordinance, the first track, other than an electrical explosion inside your ears. the idm-esque rhythms in it are crazy/awesome.

Moving on, Vanilla Jellaba has a feeling to it that oddly makes it sound like it could be a single in the electronic charts... but i am not being disrespectful to Bryn himself. even if anything off the most edm-friendly albums was a single, people would not like it.

Najibullah Headless...damn. i think I'm the only one who thinks it is absolute nightmare fuel. it sounds so coldblooded that i cannot listen to it. if I'm afraid of old PS1 spy games with monsters and shit, then i kind of might be staying away from it.

Overall, 10/10. this is one of the best albums by Muslimgauze, including Mullah Said and Uzi Mahmood.

reviewed by PasteistNoize
Rate Your Music (December 25, 2013)

The following appeared in Rate Your Music.

An extremely inaccessible 2 hour long one that's loud as fuck.

Whilst very good, this one can be sonically tiring. Also since there are so many short tracks here it's hard to talk about them individually. Overall I did definitely enjoy this a ton, even though it gave me a headache due to the lack of dynamic range and it being extremely loud. Still, there are a ton of bangers on here and fans of abrasive, glitchy IDM will definitely love this one. May re-review this upon another listen, but for now I feel positively on it even though it has it's flaws. also shoutout to this one's album cover, so good.

Definitely not one to start with, but a good one. i can see why it's one of his more well known, very unique and lots of bangers.

reviewed by StoneInFocus
Rate Your Music

see also Izlamaphobia (vinyl) & Izlamaphobia & Deceiver

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Izlamaphobia  Izlamaphobia (vinyl re-issue)  Izlamaphobia (CD re-issue)

November 3, 2020