Jaagheed Zarb & Jah-Mearab

The following appeared on Tokafi.

Muslimgauze: "Jah-Mearab" & "Jaagheed Zarb"
Irritating factors like development: Slowly flowing magma-versions as part of a hypnotic exchange of metaphors.

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 cliché 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, "jag heed 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 Hip-Hop 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 palpitations. Having said that, the record also hosts a couple of cool pumping techno tracks and industrially marching electro stomps, aggressively and ambitiously sandwiched in between the sandy shores of relaxed moods-capes. Hot and feverish, the music seems to have been recorded directly on the market places of Tunis, pointing its microphone at dusty beat-boxes 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 continuous 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 eradicating 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.

review by Tobias Fischer
Tokafi (January 7, 2009)

The following appeared on Gaz-Eta.

Some people say that once you've heard one Muslimgauze release, you've heard them all. The nuance here depends on whether that adage came from someone who has truly listened to Muslimgauze music or whether it came from the mouth of an uninitiated individual. Nearly a decade since his death, Bryn Jones' music remains as vital today as it was at the height of his creative powers. If you look at his discography, you'll notice the new issues keep coming as steadily now as they were during his lifespan. The latest two issues [both limited to 700 copies] are a living testament to his dexterity as a proprietor of sounds that are keen on bringing Arabic music one step closer to the western audience.

"Jaagheed Zarb" permeates in variety of beats. From the hip-hop analogy of "Sari of Human Hair", through to lush beats of "Kiss of Deceit" all the way through to the rapid break-beat of "Hafeez Kardar", the rhythms are ever-changing and evolving. Middle-eastern presence is felt on just about every track. Especially potent is the hypnotic vocal samples on "Vinoo Mankad Option". Excruciating fat bottom pops in on "Turn Left on Jabaliya". At each turn, the approach changes and with it, the music takes on a new life of its own. Celebratory, maddening and pissed off, the album speaks volumes through beats of the injustices that occur daily in the Middle East.

With "Jah-Mearab", Jones moves deeper into the indigenous music of the region he's loved for some many years. "Morocco Leather" is a hollowed-out percussive sound surrounded by an intermittent vocal sample. Twisted hip-hop drenched break-beats are the order of the day on "Army of Females Wearing Laytex Gadaffi Masks", while a violent beat permeates "Woman Prefer Islam". Winner of the bunch is "Just in Tunis, Only Just", which is a nearly ten minute, minimal creation of light percussive tapings that resemble tender footsteps on sand. The constantly evolving loops and crunchy beats are mesmerizing, though one always remembers that this music was made out of sheer frustration and anger. Each beat and each minute transports the listener closer to discovering the true nature of Jones and his maddening obsession with everything that will some day bring Palestine to ultimate autonomy and freedom.

review by Tom Sekowski
Gaz-Eta nr. 69 (2008)

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Jaagheed Zarb  Jah-Mearab

September 30, 2020