Saturday, September 23, 2017

Album Reviews: Celt Islam - Sufi Dub (2017) / I Am Electronic (2017)

Celt Islam is an extraordinary artist. I’ve been following his work closely ever since being blown away by an album called Baghdad, which was released online back in 2012. His music fuses together a range of different genres and influences, and he’s been fairly prolific over the past decade, releasing music under a number of different guises, across multiple platforms, not the least of which is his own Earth City Recordz label. During the same period, he’s also managed to establish a reputation as a compelling live/soundsystem act at Festivals and shows across the UK and Europe.

Thus far in 2017 we've had a couple of albums from Celt Islam, each one showcasing a specific strand or sub genre within the artist's wider musical repertoire. The first was a compilation album of older stuff, called Sufi Dub, which released back in February. More recently, last month, a collection of new material called I Am Electronic (or I Am Electronik, depending on where you look) surfaced on the Urban Sedated imprint. I thought I’d offer a few words on each release …

Sufi Dub
Sufi Dub is exactly as the title suggests it might be. 15 tracks of hybrid world music/dub/reggae crossover fare, full of skanky FX-laden drops and spaced-out atmospheric sticky goodness. It’s been a long time in the making, and the album showcases a quality pick and mix selection from a variety of past releases, including material from albums, EPs, and one-off releases. A sort of “best of”, if you like. Sufi Dub features a number of collaborative tracks, including a couple with like-minded regular co-conspirators such as Inder Goldfinger (on ‘Earth City Rockers’) and the Renegade Sufi (on ‘Fakir’ and ‘Mevlana’). As a fan, I’m very familiar with a lot of it, and tracks such ‘Light Within Me’, ‘Lantern of the Path’, ‘Irfan’, and ‘Freedom’ have become firm favourites and wider playlist highlights on my pod. I really love this blend, almost as much as I love the Baghdad release, which is remarkable given that it’s been pooled together from a wide range of original source material. I can thoroughly recommend the hugely inclusive holistic energy of Sufi Dub as a wicked starting point if you’re looking for an introduction to the music of Celt Islam.
Go here to pick up a copy of Sufi Dub from the Earth City Recordz Bandcamp page.

I Am Electronic
The second, more recent release, I suspect, is rather more niche and will perhaps be a little less accessible in terms of the mainstream. If that’s even a consideration, because this is unrepentant hard-edged industrial-strength electro/IDM of the highest calibre, and the overwhelming sense is that these tracks have been pieced together without any regard for compromise whatsoever. If Sufi Dub is the work of a man seeking universal acceptance or appeal, which it may or may not be, because I think his musical philosophy extends far beyond such simplistic analysis, then I Am Electronic sets its stall out in an entirely different stratosphere altogether … one where the listener is confronted by a much more frightening vision of the planet we live on. And just quietly, it probably presents a far more accurate assessment of where the world is at in 2017. Seldom can music without any form of what might be called “orthodox vocals” or lyrics, portray so much. On one hand, this work is reminiscent of a superb album called Worlds We Know, which was released by Celt Islam under the guise of The Analogue Fakir a few years back, in that it combines traditional (world music) instrumentation with much newer technologies, yet on the other hand, I Am Electronic takes things to a whole new level entirely. I’m not keen to single out favourite tracks, but if pushed, highlights here include ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘Electro Dervish’.
Go here to pick up a copy of I Am Electronic from the Urban Sedated Bandcamp page.

Here’s ‘Lantern of the Path’ from Sufi Dub:

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