Al Jar Zia Audio & Satyajit Eye

The following appears on Brainwashed.

I have long felt that the best possible thing that could happen for Bryn Jones' legacy would be for someone to brutally pare down his out-of-control discography to just the essentials, but I am tragically powerless to stop the tide of fresh dispatches from his seemingly infinite backlog of unreleased material.  This latest pair of albums in Staalplaat's archive series are predictably a mixed bag, but the album of almost entirely unheard material (Al Jar Zia Audio) is dramatically better than the previously released (but hard-to-get) Satyajit Eye.  That is both tantalizing and exasperating, as it guarantees that there will be many more albums to come and that Muslimgauze fans will be sifting through them in (financially ruinous) search of scattered gems for years.

Satyajit Eye was originally released back in 1993, but under very bizarre circumstances: it was free, but it could only be obtained by cutting out part of the insert from Hamas Arc and mailing it to Staalplaat with a blank DAT.  Consequently, I sincerely doubt very many people ever got to hear it until very recently, when it finally surfaced as a bootleg.  That is presumably why Staalplaat is releasing this now, though I think they could have safely let this one slip through the cracks.  In theory, I like the idea of a secret, special album that is only available through symbolic sacrifice.  In reality, however, I intensely dislike the idea of defacing album art to get a dire collection of studio scraps in an annoying format, so I am glad I missed out the first time around (and again with the bootleg).

This "expanded" reissue (on CD, thankfully) is quite a bit different than the original release, but it is no less staggeringly inessential.  For one, roughly half of the album's more substantial pieces ("Zion Poison," "Taureg," and "Satyajit Eye") are already available in slightly different form on the better and much easier to procure Vote Hezbollah album.  Secondly, the three "new" tracks added to this reissue, all titled "Remix from Vote Hezbollah," are fairly ridiculous: they are all basically the same clattering percussion loop regurgitated in 5-minute, 9-minute, and 18-second variations (the duration being the only perceptible variation).  Finally, I am confounded as to why the opening "Amritsar" was shortened from 14:54 to 0:26.  I have not heard the original version, but the new, streamlined version is essentially a dull, artless snippet of someone speaking in Arabic (presumably).  I would have shortened it even further by completely deleting it from the album.

Aside from the unique circumstances of its release, the sole other noteworthy thing about Satyajit Eye is that it is apparently one of the first recorded instances of Jones' incorporation of Indian music.  While that is mildly interesting historically, there are plenty of more successful experiments in this direction on future releases and I would prefer to listen to them.  Otherwise, the lone justification for this album's existence seems to be the presence of "Dhobi" and "Caste," which do not seem to be available elsewhere, unless there are cannibalized versions lurking around under different names (not unlikely).  Both are admittedly likable, but both would be fairly forgettable pieces within the context of a "real" Muslimgauze album.  Ultimately, Satyajit Eye is not just for completists only–it is solely for only the most indiscriminate completists.

review by Anthony D'Amico
Brainwashed (May 5, 2013)

see also Al Jar Zia Audio, Satyajit Eye

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Al Jar Zia Audio  Satyajit Eye
January 9, 2017