April 17, 2003

Test Spin: Muslimgauze

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Although he was not a Muslim and never visited the Middle East, Bryn Jones was deeply outraged by the Western world’s treatment of the Palestinians living in Israel. In 1982, he created his Muslimgauze alias to protest the situation, launching a career that would span over 100 albums of techno, noise, and avant-garde music. Since his death in 1999, the flow of releases has not slowed down, as various labels continue to package material left in the prolific musician’s vaults.

Hamas Cinema Gaza Strip acts as a good introductory primer to Jones’s more restrained side. A set of brash, minimal techno spattered with Middle Eastern melodies and instrumentation, this music is characterized by crisp beats and plucked, exotic-sounding string instruments. The beats throughout the album are mixed loud and direct, giving the otherwise languid music a strong rhythmic drive. Jones frequently establishes a looping beat, then interrupts it periodically to keep listeners on their toes. The Arabic voices drifting through the music are the only hint of Jones’s political stance, and their presence further accentuates the foreign-sounding quality of the music.

On “Hezbollah Radio Advert,” skipping guitars undercut a guttural speech, punctuated occasionally by cheers and shouts. The whole album stays true to this formula, but the lack of variety doesn’t stop the music from being consistently enveloping. Jones excelled at putting listeners into a trance with his hard, dark loops, and this record accomplishes that aim beautifully. It’s unfortunate that Jones isn’t around anymore to comment on the current conflict in the Middle East — he probably would have released about 20 new CDs by now — but fortunately this excellent music remains.

Archived article by Ed Howard