Piano Room

The following appeared in Sounds.

“A C60 containing instrumental sound collages” is how the maker describes  'Piano Room’ by E.G. Oblique Graph. The noises emanate entirely from tapes and a synth, but manage to avoid the common pitfalls of turgid repetition and barren formlessness, which are quite common in undertakings of this kind.

The one man Oblique Graph creates a likeable, almost hummable in parts, stern beauty. Some tracks place a lot of emphasis on percussion and while it must be said the sameness of the synbeatings gets a trifle monotonous, overall there are plenty of ideas and imagination to sustain ear attention for the full hour. Exceedingly good sound quality too.

Available for £2.00 directed to Bryn Jones.

tape review Sounds (July 17,  1982)

The following is an exclusive review.

A brief note in the Muslimgauze discussion group, and a wormhole opens in the net. An FTP site somewhere in Europe has got a piece by Muslimgauze called Piano Room in its MPEG archive. A visit shows that indeed it has a full 'copy' of something of a holy grail - the first cassette release, under the name E.g Oblique Graph. Bryn Jones himself didn't have a copy and 'The Edge' has been looking for some time. Interested in hearing this very early material, I get a download going. The line is slow and shaky, and it takes a few goes to get it all. When I return the next day to look at what was listed as Coup d'Etat - realising it may have some tracks from the original cassette not on the split disk - the site is non-available. The guess is that the traffic from the Muslimgauze fans has alerted the sites ISP, who has shut it down.

There are 7 tracks - six shorter ones made up side one, while the title track filled all 21 minutes of the second side. 'Scar' layers ping and a tictoc loops which subtly change over an extended drone which rhythmically sounds a gunshot and some deep voices - an almost Muslimgauze sound which broods intensely. There is a stronger beat to 'Affirm/deny' which opens with rapid swirling phasing poppop rhythm loops, background noises and a two-tone synth loopmelody. Near to half way through the ground drops out, leaving the puttering, which then fades out: to be replaced by some space-synth sounds centred by a regular beat (is this section Deny?) that shifts into a longer part where various tones are given a dub-echo treatment in a wild and wooly soundspace.

'Choir-screen' treads new ground - either samples of choirs or an effect on the synth create a spooky haunted music from these almostvoice-sounds which sweep and swirl ethereally through the track, joined by a doom-leaden beat later: the method will appear in the title track. The short (just over 2 minutes) 'Human rights' follows (a very Muslimgauze title) and features a simple melody phased and echoed and seemingly played with backwards tones, a knocking percussion echoed below (it reminds me of some backward King Crimson mellotron I heard on a mangled tape). The structure of 'Scar' returns with 'After commentary' - layers of electronica - looping simple percussive sounds, a deep drone, recurring backward pulsing tones. The various looplengths play against each other, and tweaks are made here and there.

E.g Oblique shifts into extended gear with 'Off chance' (eight+ minutes), and has an almost Middle Eastern ambience. A quite rapid popping loop is joined by a sinuous synth line which has some presentiment of the later sound. This runs for about 3 minutes, phasing and changing, before it fades and a new piece emerges - abstract and angular, noises emerge from a pulsing drone, phase and echo, retreat. A voice then a simple regular strike, a beat and backwards sounds play around it, but it remains a focus, a strange oblique sound. Sounds echo, and gradually a grinding drone comes to the fore, and the track ends with it accompanied by random sounds.

The title track opens with a jittering echo waving behind a synth-harpsichord melody, slips to just the echo alone, which begins a sequence of shifting and changing pieces - it is more like a series of tracks which have been edited together - there is no obvious rhyme or reason for the changes. A short burst of industrial rhythm gives way to a heli-drone over which rapid beaty clicks grows and fades; echoed voices phased with clicks and backward tones (a repeated element) have a concrete feel; an echoed voice with a return of the beat; random noises - high-pitched, crackles - and an echoed tone similar to one in 'Off chance'; a whipwhip beat with tones and clicks; echoed backward tones; hollow clicks; a more complex climax of a phutphut looped beat and backwards sounds manipulated and joined by the choir from 'Choir-screen' but more consistent and pulsing, leading into an extended sequence of voices at a party; then some final tinny music.

This is not a Muslimgauze album and, while it has similarities to the 'Hammer and Sickle' single,  it would be hard to hear the future sound in much of this - though some of the techniques are there. Rather it is the sound of someone enthusiastically experimenting with sounds and technology. It is impossible to say how I would respond if I had come to it out of the blue - it is fairly crude, but also interesting, and very much of its time.

It is fascinating to hear this album, and while it is a pirate and illegal version I don't feel very guilty. The cassette has been out of print and unavailable for so long it would be well nigh impossible to buy one - and if you could none of the copyright owners would get any of the probably very inflated cost. And if it were re-released I would buy a copy to get better sound quality (it is hard to say whether the sound is original or what has been lost in the tape->MP3->de-MPEGing->CD burn process). But not much of the material on the site had a similar 'lost' status - so I wouldn't generalise from this one item to overall support from free access to MPEGs - but that's another issue. As a Muslimgauze fan, I am very glad to have reached through the window of opportunity and grabbed this.

review by Jeremy Keens
This review originally appeared May 28, 2000

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