Sep 4, 2016

Sundaze 1636


About today's artist, a music project of Bryn Jones (17 June 1961 – 14 January 1999), a British ethnic electronica and experimental musician who was influenced by conflicts in the Muslim world, with an emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With dozens of albums released under the Muslimgauze name, Jones was prolific, but his mainstream success was limited due in part to his work being issued mostly in limited editions on small record labels. His music was described by one critic as "among the most startling and unique in the noise underground."... N'Joy

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Jones first released music in 1982 as E.g Oblique Graph on Kinematograph, his own imprint, and the independent co-op label Recloose, run by Simon Crab. E.g Oblique Graph came from the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos of the time and was musically composed of electronic/experimental drone with occasional synth-melodic hooks and use of radio broadcast samples. Track titles were sometimes politicised such as "Murders linked to Gaullist Clique" on Extended Play (1982) and "Castro Regime" on Triptych (1982).

After operation Peace of the Galilee, the first Muslimgauze album, Hammer & Sickle (1983) appeared on another of Jones's label monikers, Hessian. Under the Muslimgauze alias, music switched from emphasis on pure synthesis to percussion textures, which grew to encompass acoustic drum kits, drum machines, assorted ethnic hand percussion, and even rudimentary objects like pots and pans. Synthesis and tape loop samples were often relegated to accompaniment.

Releases at the time were occasionally on cassette, more often vinyl EPs and LPs; the longest running of Jones' label monikers, Limited Editions, started with Hunting Out with an Aerial Eye (1984) followed by Buddhist on Fire, put out by Recloose the same year. Since then, Jones roughly released an album a year, given scarce financial resources until 1988, when he began making inroads with then-emerging labels Staalplaat, Soleilmoon, and Extreme Records. In 1988, Staalplaat released the first Muslimgauze CD, Iran, the subsequent catalogue migrated to mostly that format.

By the late 1980s, Jones ran out of funding to self release, and other labels that did put out Muslimgauze releases such as Recloose and Permis De Construire (which put out Coup D'État) did not pay promised royalties. Recloose head Simon Crab cited lack of sales and damaged records from fire bombing as his reason.

The neighbouring Thomas a Becket pub run by East End gangsters—common-or-garden low-level vicious thugs (years before the species was romanticized by Lock Stock and Mona Lisa)—unable to control our unlicensed trade in alcohol and other illicits, firebombed the building one night and attacked the crew on a regular basis (ironically, many of the new pressings of Muslimgauze's Buddhist on Fire stored in the Recloose offices were destroyed during this attack).

The deal with Recloose was that we paid 50 percent of the profits to the artist and 50 percent went to the label, which was a pretty good deal, especially since we didn't sell that much. We put a lot of energy into marketing, and most of the artists signed to the label sold off the back of Bourbonese Qualk anyway. He assumed we sold loads of albums but we didn't even cover the costs.

At this time distributors Soleilmoon, Staalplaat, and Extreme Records transitioned to a label proper with the advent of the compact disc format, which became less expensive to produce and ship than vinyl over time and gradually took on the Muslimgauze catalogue. After a positive experience with the release of Intifaxa (1990) with Extreme, Jones remained with the label until his final release with it, Citadel, in 1994.

It was with the release of United States of Islam (1991) a formalised agreement was reached with Extreme Records, which helped fund professional studio recordings, designed attractive packaging, and used a more extensive distribution network. Though pleased at first, Jones was frustrated with Extreme's one-release-a-year policy and in 1993 signed with then-sibling labels Soleilmoon and Staalplaat, which offered a more frequent release schedule. 1993 saw the release of Vote Hezbollah, Veiled Sisters and a re-release of Iran on Soleilmoon and Hamas Arc, Satyajit Eye and Betrayal on Staalplaat.

As someone who always had more musical supply than demand[according to whom?], Jones additionally released material on nearly any small label that approached him, including Parade Amoureuse, Minus Habens Records, Concrete Productions, Daft, and Jara. A drawback with releasing on so many labels was gratuitous editing by producers and, through design or circumstance, no royalties. Extreme cited betrayal by distribution networks that were unscrupulous or filed for bankruptcy and could not pay—though they also claimed to have eventually remunerated Jones. Lack of due royalties was a source of ongoing stress throughout Jones's career.

In 1995, he had six releases; in 1996, 15; in 1997, nine; in 1998, 16. After his death, the many record companies with which he had associated released unreleased material and re-pressed older, out-of-print material. In 1999, the year of his death, 22 new (and old) albums and EPs on several media were released.

As frequency of releases increased, Jones was able to musically respond to events in the Muslim world as they occurred. Cases in point were the 1993 Oslo Accords, which surfaced as Betrayal and 1994's Hebron Massacre (also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre) released under the same name just months after the tragedy.

Toward the end of his life, Jones involved himself in more collaborative efforts in projects like the Rootsman, Apollon, and Systemwide. Jones also made arrangements to release with other labels in addition to his mainstays (something done throughout his career, more so toward the end) such as D.O.R., Third Eye, BSI, Klanggalerie, and DAFT. In addition, the frequency of live shows increased, some recorded such as at on Air West in Japan, Mort Aux Vaches for VPRO Dutch Radio, and aboard the ship, the Stubnitz. It seemed no combination of labels, collaborations, or live performances could exhaust his musical output. Media scrutiny increased too (albeit mostly on independent publications) with a total of eight interviews in 1998.

He always stated that he never had time to listen to other people's music, although in a 1992 interview with Impulse Magazine, he mentioned that he enjoyed traditional music of Japan, the Middle East, and India, as well as the works of artists such as Can, Throbbing Gristle, Wire, and Faust. However, despite a few collaborations, Jones didn't trust anyone when it came to remixing his music. Instead, he took pieces of music sent to him and remixed them to his own liking. On Wednesday, 30 December 1998, Bryn was rushed to the hospital in Manchester with a rare fungal infection in his bloodstream, for which he had to be heavily sedated. His body eventually shut down, and he died on 14 January 1999.

Jones claimed Muslimgauze was formed in response to Operation Peace of the Galilee, Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon to stem attacks from Palestinian Liberation Organization guerrillas stationed in South Lebanon. This event inspired Jones to research the conflict's origins, which grew into a lifelong artistic focal point, and he became a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, and often dedicated recordings to the Palestinian Liberation Organization or a free Palestine. Jones's research further grew to encompass other conflict-ridden, predominantly Muslim countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Iran, and Iraq. He concluded that Western interests for natural resources and strategic-political gain were root causes for many of these conflicts and should Western meddling halt, said regions would stabilise.

When asked what he would do if conflicts in the Muslim world were peaceably resolved, Jones replied his music would champion other conflict regions such as China's occupation of Tibet. He also admitted Muslimgauze music could be appreciated outside a political context as the majority of it is instrumental; politicised only by track and album titles as well as occasional newscast and ethnic music samples. It was his hope that listeners would read album and track title references and verify for themselves the meanings through independent research and thought.

The name Muslimgauze is a play on the word muslin (a type of gauze) combined with Muslim, referring to Bryn Jones' preoccupation with conflicts throughout the Muslim world..

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Dedicated to the PLO and named after one of the most notorious (or alternately most heroic) Palestinian fighters of the time, Abu Nidal is one of the better Muslimgauze releases, creating rich, deep music from the basic sources of Arabic and other Muslim backgrounds. The title track immediately commands attention here; while Muslimgauze always had a knack for instant, spot-on atmospherics, "Abu Nidal" stands out as one of the best examples of his talent. Its drifting, sensuous wind sounds and synths create a lovely drone web behind the relentless but not overpowering live percussion drive, all of which is occasionally accentuated by a counterpoint rhythm of bells or other drums. "Green is the Color of the Prophet" takes a slightly gentler approach to the same basic form, but one that's just as striking; it's an ominous dance hinting at something not quite right, while still alive with the joy of performance. "Fatwa" is perhaps the most immediately "Western" of the tunes, if only because of its more straightforward drum machine punch and pound, almost more akin to contemporaneous Wax Trax! releases, though entirely lacking in guitars. With the sidelong "Gulf War" as the remaining song on the album, Abu Nidal is both a fine piece of music and a masterful piece of political agitprop. The rougher, much more upfront drumming at the start of "Tabula Rasa" marks Coup D'Etat immediately as a slightly harsher Muslimgauze effort; while not as notably distorted as later releases, this steps away from the smoother sounds heard earlier the same year on Abu Nidal. What makes the album stand out all the more is the curious lack of Palestinian/Islamic-inspired titles or a statement of purpose; if anything, the album perhaps refers to the contemporaneous situation in Haiti, with song titles mostly in French and one specifically referring to the "Tonton Macoutes," the gangs of armed thugs used by the Duvalier government to keep the populace in check. For all this, though, it's still Muslimgauze at base, and the music is recognizably his, if not quite as distinct here than elsewhere; in spots his knack for compelling music via repetition deserts him, resulting in grooves that go on far too long. When he's spot on, though, it all works wonderfully, as with the electronic/acoustic echoes in the background of "Emeute" or the wind instruments and clattering percussion which carries "Degage." Slightly unexpected touches like the layered flute sounds which begin "Sapere Aude," drenched in reverb and made all the more beautiful while, thanks to the relentless rhythm in the arrangement, not sounding at all like bad new-age hash, definitely make this album something worth looking into.

Muslimgauze - Abu Nidal-Coup D'Etat  (flac  374mb)

01 Abu Nidal 7:30
02 Green Is The Colour Of The Prophet 8:29
03 Fatwa (Religious Decree Giving Recourse To Terrorism) 6:22
04 Tabula Rasa I 6:22
05 Tonton Macoutes I 6:19
06 Emeute 6:16
07 Degage 5:35
08 Sapere Aude 3:42
09 Jarnail Singh 8:53
10 Tabula Rasa II 6:13
11 Tonton Macoutes II 6:16

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Intifaxa is representative of Muslimgauze's work, the album consists of seven very long, purely instrumental tracks, all of which could probably be argued to have some sort of Middle Eastern influence (mainly in the percussion sound) but none of which deals even obliquely with any sort of political message. That's not a bad thing, mind you. Without a message you're left with nothing but music to focus on, all of the tracks create dark, ominous moods of various kinds. The sounds of Arabia are captured in confident rhythms, a pulsating bass and an enveloping ambience. This musical creativity has progressed over the past ten years to become one of the most inspiring sounds of the nineties. The Arabian countries, which are a catalyst for this release, are captured in each song. Such a picture can only be painted by Muslimgauze.

Muslimgauze - Intifaxa  (flac  334mb)

01 Izzat 10:08
02 Dheisha 9:56
03 Khar Khodefi 9:23
04 P.F.L.P. 10:21
05 Ziggurat 10:03
06 Fazisi 7:10
07 Kirghiz 6:46

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Given Muslimgauze's utterly vast discography, finding a starting point can be a difficult task. Happily, if a listener wants to take the plunge, there is at least one definite way to begin: with Zul'm. Benefitting from clear production, inventive and utterly listenable songs, and an overall sense of presentation that is breathtaking -- not to mention a heavy toning-down of what for many listeners has been the hard-to-handle, overtly politicized nature of Muslimgauze's work -- Zul'm succeeds on many different levels. "Fakir" begins the album superbly as a collage of Arabic and Indian percussion performed by guest musicians, accentuated by pounding drum rumbles at points, along with a variety of sitar sounds, vocal samples, motor noises, bells, and chimes throughout the mix. Lively and powerful, perhaps calling to mind a market or a joyous feast of celebration, the track stands as a definite Muslimgauze masterpiece. The rest of the album does equally well though on many different levels: "Curfew, Gaza," relies on pinpoint-precise electronic pulses mixed with the other percussion, claps, and bells to create a moody, tense feeling; "Afghan Black" applies drones and much echoing over the percussion to create a high, lonesome atmosphere that at once both invites and makes things feel on edge. The two versions of "Teheran by Train" both have a smoky, late-night feeling to them, with violin and flute samples working around the multilayered (though still comparatively relaxed) percussion and drum interplay. "Shiva Hooka" concludes the album proper with a slower, deliberate pace, as wafts of keyboards rise and float like clouds of smoke. Whether used as background music or given full attention, Zul'm showcases Muslimgauze at his truly unique, inspired best.

Muslimgauze - Zul'm    (flac  324mb)

01 Fakir 8:44
02 Curfew, Gaza 10:37
03 Afghan Black 9:06
04 Indian Summer Of Benazir Bhutto 9:16
05 Teheran Via Train 7:56
06 Shiva Hooka 6:46
07 Teheran Via Train (Departure Mix) 5:41

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Muslimgauze's first double-disc release of any kind, the music consists of light electronic drum/cymbal sounds with an occasional drop-in of more "natural" percussion sounds, subliminal bass, and very gentle keyboard melodies and drones, all combined with a series of random conversational samples in Arabic. It is initially rather nice, but it can test an audience's patience as the discs continue. This said, while the variances in the pieces are astoundingly slight throughout, what changes do occur have a greater impact than expected as a result. Thus, the conclusion of the "Submit to Sharia/Qasidah Murmur/Lebanon" combination on the first disc, when the music temporarily drops out near the end over a floating bed of soft, shadowy keyboards before returning one last time, has a much more gripping feeling to it than might otherwise be predicted. Ultimately, the enjoyment of Veiled Sisters will depend on listeners' enthusiasm for Muslimgauze to begin with, and whether or not they simply let it go at its own pace; though not a peak in Bryn Jones' musical career, it still has a certain something to it nonetheless. [Side note: while the album is listed as having 21 songs, the CD mastering and editing of the songs in practical terms make it three separate tracks per disc.]

Muslimgauze - Veiled Sisters sis 1      (flac  376mb)

01 Shamal Aquabah-P.L.O. Flag-Veiled Sisters-Dust 24:58
02 Submit To Sharia-Qasidah Murmur-Lebanon 22:53
03 Oil Field-Mohajir 14:39


Muslimgauze - Veiled Sisters sis 2  (flac  393mb)

04 Shaitan Verse  Cholera  Katyusha  Ingneswallah 18:49
05 Hindunation  Fiefdom  El Minzah Kiff 23:13
06 Pasha  Farouche Charpoy  Halal  Sadu  Zupol 24:10

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Anonymous said...

Kudos on this post. Lots of wonderful material. Looking forward to any future posts from Bryn's extensive discography.

Mick said...

Thank you Rho for this one. I am a fan of the Gauze and with this latest addition I now have about 25 or so of his albums on flac with a few on CD. (I'm not counting the many I have on mp3 because of the inferior quality). Most of his works were released after his death as anyone who follows his extensive discography will know. See the excellent for background information on the 256 releases so far.

Rho said...

Hello Mick , Anon thanks for your comment and i can announce there will be more Muslimgauze the coming weeks, as it happens i came across his intriguing work in the mid nineties and i have to say i'm rather surprised his work got this amount of attention after his sudden death, i guess that's the power of the internet. Expect more to n'joy here

Anonymous said...

anyone have a PDF of the book VOD put out on him ?

Unknown said...

please reup the Muslimgauze albums

Anonymous said...

Please re-up (if not too soon). Thanks very much.