Zul'm

"Zul'm" is an album of contrasts. It is evocative of a culture caught up in a web of local and global politics.

The narrative appears as a slice of urbanity - up tempo, carefree soundscapes of human activity interspersed with digitized spatial rhythms. The boundary between East and West coalesces, melding and jutting into a changing whole.

Muslimgauze are from Manchester, forming in the post-industrial early eighties. Theirs is a world music based on western rhythms, integrated with ethnic instruments and atmospheres. The music is a minimal, polyrhythmic soundscape. A vision of unresolved cultural change.

"Zul'm" sees a further step in the interaction of two very different nations, with guest musicians Said Nasser on Arabic percussion and voice and Zorawar Singh on Indian percussion and voice. Also appearing on the album is Mark Lawrence on keyboards.

The title "Zul'm" is derived from the name of the Muslim prophet "Zulkifl", meaning fate. The plight of the Palestinian people continues to inspire the music of Muslimgauze.

Press release from Extreme.

The following appeared in Option.

Muslimgauze's music is a refined form of exotica. An enigmatic British ensemble, their recent recordings have taken stingy amounts of percussion, languid tempos, and an outsider's fascination with the melodies and instruments of the Middle East to create evocative, spellbinding music. While they never resort to crass world beat cliché's (their music isn't especially danceable and it's mostly wordless), you get the feeling that this music doesn't replicate that of other cultures, either. Instead, it's a higher order of trance music, built on impressions of Asian and Middle Eastern culture and a heady regard for currents in ambient and industrial music. This set also features Indian and Arabic percussionists, each of whom contributes vocals: it's very difficult to tell where the traditions end and the Western artists take over. Once again, Muslimgauze draws inspiration from the tensions which permeate that part of the world; they dedicate their album to Palestinians killed in Kuwait, and otter song titles like "Curfew, Gaza," and "Indian Summer of Benazir Bhutto." Fans should also note that Soleilmoon has recently issued Coup d'Etat, a CD of material from their first two albums.

review by Fairfield Woods
This text originally appeared in Option magazine (issue # 47).
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The following appeared on Concept.

What I said concerning the "Bhutto" album is even truer of this album. Zorawar Singh and Said Nasser, two traditional musicians, collaborated on this and that gives it a definitely authentic seal. Indispensable, especially to those that like to make love to music.

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

The following appeared on Grinding into Emptiness.

This CD is a 1992 release, which was before Muslimgauze's noisier era. Some elements in this more Arabic/tribal release hint toward the new style. Hypnotic rhythms are found throughout, accompanied by the vocals of Zorawar Singh and Said Nasser. Chaotic percussion sequences are scattered around to provide a pause from rhythm. The track "Curfew, Gaza" provides more electronic rhythms accompanied by the typical Muslimgauze percussion and Arabic flute. "Afghan Black" is the most chaotic song, consisting of quite an array of instruments, including some I have never heard used. This is probably the best non-noisy release Muslimgauze has put out.

review by Scott Mallonee
This interview originally appeared on
G R I N D I N G i n t o E M P T I N E S S (March 2, 1998)

The following appears in All Music Guide.

Given Muslimgauze's utterly vast discography, finding a starting point can be a difficult task. Happily, if a listener wants to take the plunge, there is at least one definite way to begin: with Zul'm. Benefiting from clear production, inventive and utterly listenable songs, and an overall sense of presentation that is breathtaking  not to mention a heavy toning-down of what for many listeners has been the hard-to-handle, overtly politicized nature of Muslimgauze's work  Zul'm succeeds on many different levels. "Fakir" begins the album superbly as a collage of Arabic and Indian percussion performed by guest musicians, accentuated by pounding drum rumbles at points, along with a variety of sitar sounds, vocal samples, motor noises, bells, and chimes throughout the mix. Lively and powerful, perhaps calling to mind a market or a joyous feast of celebration, the track stands as a definite Muslimgauze masterpiece. The rest of the album does equally well though on many different levels: "Curfew, Gaza," relies on pinpoint-precise electronic pulses mixed with the other percussion, claps, and bells to create a moody, tense feeling; "Afghan Black" applies drones and much echoing over the percussion to create a high, lonesome atmosphere that at once both invites and makes things feel on edge. The two versions of "Teheran by Train" both have a smoky, late-night feeling to them, with violin and flute samples working around the multi-layered (though still comparatively relaxed) percussion and drum interplay. "Shiva Hooka" concludes the album proper with a slower, deliberate pace, as wafts of keyboards rise and float like clouds of smoke. Whether used as background music or given full attention, Zul'm showcases Muslimgauze at his truly unique, inspired best.

review by Ned Raggett
All Music Guide

The following appears on listen.com.

Muslimgauze's unique brand of Middle Eastern electronic mosaic has been unsettling the normal flow of things now for some time. Both Intifaxa and United States Of Islam have already seen release-now add Zul'm to the already lengthy canon. A typical Muslimgauze album fuses many Arabic and quasi-Arabic repetitive rhythms with lush strains of Middle Eastern chants, textures, and motifs. Past Muslimgauze records set up intricate webs of random electronics amongst the exotic percussion; Zul'm is relatively straight, lifting the percolating and shimmering patterns almost verbatim from their indigenous sources.

"Curfew, Gaza" simmers with a sultry sequencer pattern that is close enough to touch but difficult to grasp. And that is exactly where Muslimgauze's strength lies-among a no-man's-land of near-tangible rhythms at once strangely familiar and peculiarly distant. Experience the intoxication of Zul'm for yourself. It's creepily effective even without the lava lamp.

listem.com

The following appeared on Discover.

"Zul'm" is the third CD of Muslimgauze on Extreme. The word "Zul'm" refers to the Muslim prophet "Zulkifl" and means "fate". Like each Muslimgauze CD it is inspired by the present emergency in Palestine. That should not prevent you from listening to it however. Muslimgauze does not try to directly involve the listener but rather tries to pull them into the through the music and leaves it the listener, whether they devote time to the fin out about the problem. They try to motivate us with titles or cover designs to the confrontation.

I think of the word "discreetly" again and again in order to describe the music. It is very much trancey, little shrilly, with subtly started synthesizer-surfaces and of course very much percussion. On "Zul'm" it is all rhythm, there are only low melody-shares, and then they often recur so that they direct all attention to the percussion. In addition the assorted instruments are mixed so that together they yield a densely woven carpet.

"Zul'm" is like a dark way, on which appear from time to time brightly lit islands in other colours from right and left. The light places are the different instruments, that vary only minimally, so that it always remains diversified without the carpet being cut apart.

"Zul'm" is a highlight in the unending Muslimgauze palette.

review by Ralf Haarmann
Discover
Translated from German with the assistance of Gist-In-Time

Brilliant re-issue of a five year old release and currently the hit in my CD-Player. Whoever does not yet know Muslimgauze: the (mostly) one-man-project, from Manchester, originated as a reaction to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Since then the entire artistic work is based dedicated to the sounds (as well as mainly rhythms) and political developments of the Arabic world, but also the remainder of Asia - earlier in the releases were more industrial, while later ones are more dance and melodious without neglecting Middle Eastern roots. On this work, two additional musicians take part in the area of Arabic and Indian percussion, that forms a hypnotic instrumental-manifesto against the Israeli personnel-politics with Western electronics together, (Curfew, Gaza) or Indian memories or dreams evoked (Shiva Hooka). And despite all the rage over cruelties and isolated verbal radicalism on other publications Muslimgauze are not aggressive, but rather suggestive and opposed to the destruction of a creative culture - dance and to revolution, since Emma Goldman links inseparably.

review by Sascha Karminski
Translated from German with the assistance of Gist-In-Time

The following appears on Amazon.com.

In the city of Manchester, over in merry old England, there once lived a man named Bryn Jones. A drummer by profession, he made a living as a session musician (ed. - inaccurate) until the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Jones had no connection to the Middle East, and no stake in the conflict, yet for some inexplicable reason, this war struck him deeply. Filled with intense sympathy for the people of Lebanon and for Arabs in general, Jones formed the one-man band known as Muslimgauze in protest. His first album, released in 1983, was titled "Kabul," alluding to the war raging in Soviet-besieged Afghanistan. Thus began a career that lasts to this day, having outlived Jones himself.

Sympathy for the Arabs was behind everything Muslimgauze released. Unfortunately, Jones was not a very effective spokesman for his cause: in the few interviews he gave, he spoke in short, agitated pronouncements that lacked the gift of eloquence and occasionally contradicted each other. When reading these documents, one might envision a man driven by some insuppressible sense of responsibility but insufficiently articulate to describe it to others. The one consistent theme of Jones's rhetoric was unconditional support for Arabs (Palestinians, in particular), and one could always see his anger rising as he proclaimed it. That could lead him to make very unsavoury statements - for instance, when confronted with the fact of Palestinian terrorism once, he bluntly said, "Muslimgauze will never condemn." On another occasion, however, he fervently wished for peace in the Middle East, and said that such a thing could happen only if all sides could just sit down and talk to each other. Such apparent self-contradiction was part of the man's character, and doubtless he often did his cause more harm than good.

Jones's defiance permeated even his very method of recording music. He eschewed all digital media and claimed to never have touched a computer or sampler in his life, believing that these things would make his music sound too much like "everyone else's." Instead, he worked solely with old analogue equipment. He likewise dictated his own terms in the matter of releasing records, which he made at a superhuman pace - to give some idea of his dedication, the Muslimgauze discography is over 150 titles strong as of this writing.

Recording and releasing albums was the sole outlet for Jones's anger, as can be seen from their titles, which read like political leaflets or calls to arms, e.g. Vote Hezbollah, Betrayal, Coup D'Etat, and so forth. Despite such deliberately provocative gestures, and sometimes disturbing packaging (one Muslimgauze album cover depicts two Arab women, completely covered with black veils, coldly drawing and aiming pistols), they are all entirely instrumental. Jones deliberately wrote no lyrics, believing that "that would be preaching" and hoping that listeners would be sufficiently intrigued by the music to learn about the issues that motivated it. Ultimately, it's this music, born of Jones's political views yet detached from them, that distinguishes Muslimgauze and redeems whatever faults possessed by its creator.

Jones was recording electronica a decade before the term existed. Since he was a drummer by trade, all of his albums have a strong focus on percussion. On Muslimgauze albums, drums are often the lead instruments. The solos, the rhythm section, the atmospherics all rely on percussion. Other instruments are used for texture and melody, but the drums are always prominent. One might think that this would make for clanging noise of the sort that can be found on many "jungle" records, but the best Muslimgauze albums are nothing like that. Consider this album, released in 1992. The track "Indian Summer of Benazir Bhutto" starts out with a brief meandering part on hand drums, as a distant, low bass rumble appears in the background, more of an echo than a bass line. A steady, highly danceable beat comes in. The echo rises in pitch somewhat until it takes on a sonorous, mournful sound. But the main beat isn't played the way dance or rock beats are; instead of pounding, it's cushioned in many layers of subdued cymbals, and sounds gentle and airy. Add to this a few chimes and hand drums playing little solos off to the side, and you have a track which by all rights should have been the great dance hit of its day, and certainly outclasses many actual dance hits. Despite Jones's uncompromising attitudes, his music was often perfectly accessible.

"Curfew, Gaza" uses a similar technique, burying the beat even further into the cymbals and high-hats and setting it to a faraway flute melody, thus creating a sense of apprehension and slumbering danger. "Fakir," on the other hand, plays up the drums, and uses a cheerful guitar line and Arabic calls to create an image of some sort of bustling Eastern marketplace. Though devoid of lyrics, Muslimgauze tracks make extensive use of vocals, and often contain whole conversations held in Arabic or some other Eastern language, muezzins calling Muslims to prayer, wailing women, arguing men, and so forth, to make the music more evocative. In "Teheran Via Train," for instance, the plaintive, quiet singing of an old man fades in and out of focus throughout the track. Along with a hazy violin, and drifting hand-drum percussion, without the steady, prominent back-beat of other tracks, this creates a more reflective, solitary mood, as when a languid summertime dusk slowly falls outside one's window. The album as a whole tends toward this kind of rumination, and political aggression is nowhere to be found in the music. These are elegant, haunting tracks with more depth than the simplicity of Jones's approach might suggest.

Bryn Jones, electronica's fieriest and most enigmatic figure despite his obscurity, died in 1999 of a rare blood disease. Thanks to his prolificity, Muslimgauze has outlived him: there is so much unreleased material remaining in his vaults that his label is still releasing new Muslimgauze albums, at nearly the same rate as when Jones was alive.

Angry Mofo "angrymofo" (May 3, 2004)
Amazon.com

see also Iran, Zul'm, Infidel and Salaam Alekum, Bastard

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Press Release/Reviews Index Release Information Back Muslimgauze
August 12, 2010