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CD Feature/ Muslimgauze: "Jah-Mearab" & "Jaagheed Zarb"

img  Tobias

It remains a matter of speculation whether the work of Bryn Jones would have been occidentally accepted if he had actually been a Muslim fundamentalist. Coming from the lips of a preacher, track titles like „Woman (sic!) prefer Islam“ or „Turn into Hezbollah Digital Radio“ sound like belligerent trench-talk, but in the hands of someone who grew up as a middle class kid in the UK and (for various reasons) would not set foot on the land he ceaselessly travelled in his music, whatever might have been a radical message got blurred into a vision which drew its creative blood from confounding ambiguity. Confusion, after all, can be a powerful emotion.

In a time, when cross-referencing sonic cultures has almost turned into a tiresome cliche and Sitar samples have made it as far as Janet Jackson albums, the kind of stylistic blend Jones prophetically pioneered can hardly be considered progressive anymore. And yet, his voice remains singular and stubbornly stimulating. It is a sensation of nervous tautness, which surrounds each and every Muslimgauze release and which has turned a music without any kind of lyrics or liner notes into voluble and urgent art concrete: Everybody will sense an agenda behind works like „jaagheed zarb“ and „jah-mearab“, even though everyone will come to different conclusions.

As mentioned, Jones' output itself is best characterised as recognisable rather than revolutionary. Even between these first full-length episodes of new, previously unreleased material, differences are discreet, with the devil hiding in the samples, sounds and details. If anything, „jagheed zarb“ is the more energetic and dramatic affair of the two: Garishly distorted Bass lines visionarily hint at Dubstep, while dark Dub echoes haunt sceletised HipHop loops turning deliriously round their own axes. A lot of hidden links establish coherence between tracks, with elements enigmatically returning at later stages or pieces being reincarnated in slowly flowing magma-versions as part of a hypnotic exchange of metaphors.

In immediate contrast, „jah-mearab“ is more pure and minimal – whatever the latter may mean in the context of an oeuvre which has traditionally relied on three to four elements per piece. Mantric Tabla- and Kora-beats are at the heart of the music, which replaces melodies with textures made up of loosely layered field recordings or stupendous repetitions of the same solitary oud palpatations. Having said that, the record also hosts a couple of cooly pumping techno tracks and industrially marching electro stomps, aggressively and ambitiously sandwiched in between the sandy shores of relaxed moodscapes. Hot and feverish, the music seems to have been recorded directly on the market places of Tunis, pointing its microphone at dusty beatboxes on sandswept summer streets.

It is hard to dispute claims that the ingredients and methods of Jones' galaxy have hardly changed over the course of his lifetime and his posthumous career. Essentially, each track consists of a continous stream of variations of a single pattern. His tools are the techniques of a DJ – breakdowns, stereo pannings, fade-ins and -outs, muting – without ever showing an interest in building the typical tension curves of a club. His compositions, nay even his albums, don't seem to move at all, stoically marking time like a drugged-up runner on a fiery treadmill.

The most suitable comparison must therefore come from the world of visual arts. Like a painter, Jones approaches his material from different angles, allowing listeners to discover the intricate interaction of its building blocks without having to worry about irritating factors like development. In fact, one could say that there is no development whatsoever to be found here, with the process of consistent reworking and decomposition effectively erradicating notions like groove, flow and themes. The same, by the way, goes for the provocative nature of his track titles and cover shots: A few pieces into these albums, every sense of political confusion is lost in the trance-inducing quality of the music.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Muslimgauze
Homepage: Staalplaat Records

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