Lalique Gadaffi Handgrenade

release date :  20 January 2020

"Given Jones’ rather slack approach to track titles (both being consistent with and sometimes even just supplying them), it’s a bit of a relief to realize that two tracks with the same name are indeed related. In the case of “Arab Jerusalem”, which makes up nearly half of the newly-released Lalique Gadaffi Handgrenade, that kinship is immediately apparent even though both tracks are clearly their own experiences. Released as the first track on the Minaret-Spearker picture disc 7” in 1996, “Arab Jeruzalem” (spelling also sometimes being fairly slack) is 5:42 of effectively shifting dark ambience, wordless female vocals drifting over the hand percussion, chimes, and static of the track, with eventual conversational loops discussing… something underneath. The end of that version is especially striking for the way the woman’s wordless singing starts being sampled in such a way that it overlays the whole track (and, slightly, itself). The almost 24-minute “Arab Jerusalem” here might be called the Deer Hunter version of the same story, building with great patience and many more abstract detours towards what now seems like simultaneously an excerpt and, now, a climax. As with many of Jones’ more ambient tracks, the great length just lets it cast its spell more thoroughly and entrancingly.

The other three tracks, meanwhile, suggest some of Jones’ other work but never evoke them as directly as “Arab Jerusalem”. “Jordan River” is nearly as long (a second shy of 20 minutes) but strips out the vocal elements in its predecessor, focusing instead on a more active percussive workout (analogue and digital both) and a river of hiss running down the center of the track. The title track of Lalique Gadaffi Handgrenade might bring to mind the title of “Lalique Gadaffi Jar” from Libya Tour Guide (last reissued by Staalplaat in 2015), but if they’re sonically related Jones must have practically melted the other track to get this one. And the closing “Desert Gulag” (like the title track, a much more manageable length than the first two epic tracks here) bears a slight resemblance to “Negev Gulag” from 1996’s Fatah Guerrilla, here what was a piercing, repetitive drone is softened and looped over more of Jones’ percussion. The result is a well-rounded release that shows off many aspects of Jones’ sound as Muslimgauze, while existing (like many of these DAT tapes do) in conversation with much of his previously released work."

Press release from Staalplaat.

The following appeared on Juno Records.

He may not have been on this planet since the late 1990s, but the late, great Bryn Jones continues to dazzle from beyond the grave. The latest in a long line of posthumous albums offers another chance to own one of his greatest moments, 23-minute 1996 cut "Arab Jerusalem": a superb sound soup rich in atmospheric field recordings, snatched Arabic radio chatter, hazy ambient electronics, sporadic bursts of hand percussion and unearthly female vocal snippets. Perhaps more alluring for dedicated fans are the three previously unreleased tracks that Staalplaat has plucked from the Manchester producer's vast archives. The standout is undoubtedly "Jordan River", a twenty-minute chunk of sparse, mind-altering electro-dub/ambient dub fusion from the DJ Spooky school of "illbient" that's simply essential.

This text originally appeared on Juno Records Staff Picks January 13, 2020.

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