Record Review: Celt Islam – Urban Sutra (2012, Urban Sedated Records)

“Another inspiring set of electro-dub propelled transglobal dubstep sufism in the dynamic, activist fashion of Celt Islam – bridging the orient with the occident and spirituality with music.”

Genre: Sufi Dub / Global Bass / Rootstep

Region: Manchester, England

Artist’s Websitehttp://celtislam.tumblr.com/

Label: Urban Sedated Records

Celt Islam struck already twice in 2012 with a fistful of uncompromising ‘Sufi Dub’, his exclusive brew of bass-drenched dance music. Amidst the increasingly saturated bass scene, Celt Islam’s brand is rather refreshing. In any case, Muhammad Abdullah Hamzah (aka Celt Islam) has a vision which stretches far beyond the current bass hype (dubstep/brostep).

Muhammad seems to be in a very productive period, dropping another 76 minutes of music right after his stunning third album ‘Baghdad’. Although ‘Urban Sutra’ came out almost simultaneously it is quite different – maybe Celt Islam’s heaviest and darkest record to date.

Dubstep elements are much more abundant in this set and they bring a lot more wobbles and noise in the mix – however there are some trade-offs. Although there are some really groovy, crunchy dubstep riffs, the album has also suppressed some of the emotional grandeur of ‘Baghdad’ as well as some of its uplifting spirituality which are fields intimately linked with Muhammad’s Sufi Dub holograms.

Even if more dominant than before, dubstep is still only one element in Celt Islam’s body of music, which can be better described as ‘meta-dubstep’ (or ‘Rootstep’) meaning that dubstep elements are distilled and incorporated in pieces of music which are mostly defined by other styles. In other words, ‘Urban Sutra’ is in many ways not your average dubstep record.

The first track, ‘Intifada’, comes in an impulsive, polemic style indicative of what is about to come. Right after, ‘Bass Mantra’ pushes into the extreme all those elements that Celt Islam is known for: seductive oriental melodies, solid percussive electro-dub backbone, psy-trance mentality, rich and skillful song arrangements and stronger than ever bass-punch oscillations. This song is an amalgam of all those elements so firmly interwoven that is totally infectious. It is an explosive mix, one of the best numbers in Muhammad’s discography so far.

‘Natural level’ is one of the most successful vocal tracks featuring Bogno Chilli and other remarkable moments in the album include ‘Futuwwa’, the innovative ‘Renegade’ the masterful and cathartic title track and most of all the trademark tune ‘Sufi Dub’ a true ethno-dub number in which Muhammad unfolds his vision of spirituality in music. However, not all 76 minutes in this album are equally exciting (a hard task itself) and at some points the over-abundant dubstep elements bring some saturation.

Muhammad Abdullah Hamzah delivered another inspiring set, that captures his characteristic dynamism as a producer. He brings together disparate styles in coherent tunes which are particularly energetic, ‘kinetic’, activistic and at the same time with a spiritual vibe.

Do not forget that Muhammad Abdullah Hamzah is a life activist himself; after studying Islam and Classical Sufism in Spain he is the cultural director of ‘The Association of British Muslims and at the same time he works with NiceonesUK and Viva Palestina. As with his music, he is trying to bridge different worlds, the orient and occident, in a very natural way. It becomes then inescapable not to see unity behind all televised (arabo-)phobias. Cultural difference is beauty to be cherished, not division leading to discrimination or wars.

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