Azure Deux, Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass, Remixs Vol. 2, Re-mixs Vol 3. & Return To The City Of Djinn

The following appeared in The Wire.

On 14 January, Muslimgauze's Bryn Jones died in Manchester, aged 38, from pneumonia following the contraction of a rare fungal blood disease. He was always a reclusive figure, happy to let his music speak for itself and for the listeners to take whatever they wished from it's politically influenced titles. One of the counterculture's most prolific mavericks, he has apparently left Staalplaat with enough material to carry on releasing new albums for another five years. No doubt Bryn would have hoped that the Palestinian's finally find justice before the music passes away too.

Listening back to the forgettable drum machine from 1983's "Melena Jesenska", on the Industrial compilation Elephant Table Album, there is little sign of the identity that would inform Jones's subsequent style. By the end of the 80's, album titles like Uzi (with track titles like "Odour Of Semtex" and "Shroud Of Khomeini"), marked the beginning of his single minded exploration of Arab influenced percussive trance states and rhythmic cut-ups. An initial revulsion at Israel's invasion of Lebanon prompted his unshakeable but undemonstrated support for other Islamic and Arab nations, particularly the Palestinian cause. His music is a virtual reality take on it's sources; a complete reconfiguration to suit his own tastes.

As with other fertile visionaries such as Merzbow, there are too many releases for any non-fan to keep up with (and many of them do sound interchangeable). If anything, the consistency of his output was a welcome guarantee that you could dip in wherever you liked and come back with a reasonably representative set. For the fans who must have everything, limited editions like the Re-mixs volumes keep them satisfied.

Azure Deux is perhaps the most representative of these recent releases, ranging from the head-hazing dunescapes of "Devour" and "Sandtrafikar" to the distorted and rhythmic pounding of "Shishla Nain Royal Bidjar". Some tracks even have a relaxed, funky feel to them. If you're not already a fan, it's a varied and rewarding sampler.

The drums and electronic warbling of "Nazareth Arab", from Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass, aren't especially successful; and a valiant attempt to marry Techno and dub with the usual Muslimgauze sound on the same album's "Uzi Mahmood" also meets mixed results. Though it's certainly not the best album in this batch, one track, "Istanbul", impresses by switching from a light reggae influence to what might be a damaged, scratchy recording of a singer in Jones's virtual Middle East.

The influence of reggae was a feature of Jones's later productions, and the Re-mixs volumes adopt it extensively. On these discs, he remixes his own material, combining methodical, patient rhythms with the original tonality of his percussion often filtered beyond recognition, and adding occasional phonographic static. Unlike too many faux ethnic Westerners, Jones rarely seemed constrained by issues of authenticity or the need for glossy production values. Indeed, the crackle, distortion and hiss that surface here helped ground his music. Vol 3 also benefits from some tracks that further filter the Muslimgauze sound into something approximating a didgeridoo, which he loops, and in one case, adds excited whoops. The same whoops had already made an appearance on the marginally more adventurous Vol 2, reinforcing that element of interchangeability in his work, where similar rhythms, sounds and textures recur.

Fortunately, Jones's willingness to depart from the formula kept things interesting even when the steady stream of releases became a torrent. Return To The City Of Djinn takes him much closer to the dance floor, the dervish rhythm loops, augmented with hip quacking bass lines, or sped up drum 'n' bass style. While it losses a lot of Muslimgauze's distinctness, it still ends up sounding like little else, and tracks like "Tuzla" and "Esfahan" thrust ahead at an invigorating speed. Along with Azure Deux it is the pick of a batch that have now, sadly, become memorials.

review by Brian Duguid
This text and picture originally appeared in The Wire magazine (issue # 181).

see also Azure Deux, Azure Deux & Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass, Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar, Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass & Re-mixs Vol. 3, Re-mixs Vol. 2, Re-mixs Vol. 3 & Return To The City Of Djinn

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Azure Deux Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass Hussein Mahmood Jeeb Tehar Gass (vinyl re-issue) Re-mixs Volume 1 + 2
Re-mixs Vol 3. Remixs Vol. 2 Return To The City Of Djinn
January 9, 2017