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Album reviews: Baghdad and Urban Sutra by Celt Islam

March 31, 2012

Sufi dub artist Muhammad Abdullah Hamza aka Celt Islam has released two albums in very close succession, Baghdad early in 2012 and Urban Sutra in March 2012.

I really like the artwork on Baghdad – I find it more inviting than Celt Islam‘s usual black and green livery. Possibly the change of style is because it was released on a different label, Ajnavision Records, rather than Urban Sedated. Celt Islam‘s releases are always generous with tracks – Baghdad has twelve. There are the expected strong dubby basslines, grooving tablas, Eastern-inflected atmospherics and sufi-flavoured track titles such as Wahdaat ul Wajood (Unity of Being) and Mureed . As ever, there are collaborations with other artists such as The Renegade Sufi and Bongo Chill. Overall, this album has a chilled, head-nodding, old school, trippy dub feel.

Urban Sutra, with its more traditional, green and black artwork, takes us elsewhere; it has a harder, driving, tone with more of a dubstep influence. Most of the other elements are similar, with the usual collaborators, tablas, Eastern melodic explorations, sufistic track titles (Sufi Dub, Ali Mawla, Futuwwa, for example) and relentless bass pressure. The sound is definitely more electronic than Baghdad‘s more laid back dub stylings. Once again, Celt Islam is generous with the tunes – there are fourteen.

There’s not a duff tune on either album – they’re both excellent collections, albeit with different feels. They’re both albums you could play right through (does anyone do that any more?) without being bored. Both albums are well recorded and sound great. You should buy them!

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