Al-Zulfiquar Shaheed

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Unexpectedly released by Muslimgauze on French label T4 after almost exclusively working with Soleilmoon and Staalplaat for some time, Shaheed is no idle one-off. It contains some impressive work even by the band's standards. Consisting of only four tracks, Shaheed showcases Bryn Jones' ability to create lengthy, detailed compositions. Continuing the tradition of impressive album openers, "Sadhu" is a 22-minute monster which takes the basics from many Muslimgauze songs -- Arabic percussion, droning keyboards, and heavily echoed, dub-styled production -- and stretches them even further. The obsessive focus on rhythm at the heart of Jones' work really comes out here, especially over a series of build-ups and sudden halts within the song as it progresses. "Shaheed" mixes hard-to-interpret vocal samples from what sound like a variety of Arabic speakers with a clipped, sharp rhythm push. "Mosaic Palestine" could well be what its title says it is, given all the various samples at play in it, though no exact source is noted for any of them; the core musical track is an attractive, minimal arrangement of stringed instruments and various beats and bells. "Ayodhya Skin and Stone" closes things with a near half-hour effort, often using the shimmering synth string/light percussion combination familiar from releases like Veiled Sisters. Here, however, the drumming is live rather than machine-generated, and its intensity changes, rises, and falls throughout the song. Adding more heavily echoed samples and removing or altering the organ tones from time to time results in an often disturbing, murky composition which, while still recognizably Muslimgauze, has its own unique appeal to it.

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