Muslimgauze is yet another electronic artist that I hadn't taken the time or money to explore until recently. Admittingly, one of the main reasons I heard about the group was because of a fair amount of press that went around last year when Bryn Jones (the man behind Muslimgauze) died of a very rare blood disease at a young age. Being on an electronic music mailing list, I started hearing the name over and over and finally did a little research on the music that he created. While I was delving into this research, I not only found out that it was something that I would probably like, but that Jones was also terribly prolific as an artist. While many of his releases are now hard to find because of limited press runs, on average he released over 2 albums worth of material every year for at least the past 5. Even after his death, a 9-CD (yes, that's 9 CD's) box set is planned for release sometime around the end of 1999.
Now I'll try to go onto the music. Although Muslimgauze compositions are for the most part instrumental (electronic), there is a definite message behind the work. If you delve at all into the catalogue of work that was produced in such a short time, you'll find that almost all of the releases have some sort of middle-eastern theme, usually one of a political nature. Although I'm by no means an expert in the music of Muslimgauze, all the work I've heard definitely seems to have motivations other than just as an aural landscape. While it's difficult to sometimes convey a political message through songs with lyrics (let along music without them), Muslimgauze manages to do it well, whether it's attacking the establishment with industrial-edged harder tracks, or identifying with the oppressed through a moving ambient track.
As an album, Narcotic does these above things and more. The opening track "Medina Flight" bangs on with a metallic sounding looped drum track that blares with distortion at some points while background voices chant out vocals nearly throughout. The track is flavored with other harsh sounds and even a few woodwind sounding instruments before subsequently breaking down and starting back in several times. "Believers of the Blind Sheikh" is a 10-minute middle-eastern sounding dub track sprinkled with live drum sounds and more occassional vocal samples of unknown conversation. "Saddams Children" leans more toward traditional instruments, but one can hear the gurgle of electronics lightly in the background.
The instrumentation of the album is amazing. When I first started seeing that Muslimgauze released so many albums in such a short amount of time, I naturally thought that the quality might fall suspect, but Narcotic is a solid piece of work that covers quite a chunk of the electronic music spectrum, although a lot of the rhythms tend to fall on a little harder side. It manages to blend ethnic and electronic sounds into quite an interesting mix. I don't know enough of the politics to know whether it succeeds on a political level or not, but I guess it's probably the point of the disc to make me want to learn.