Complete Oblique (compilation)

The following appeared on Boomkat.

The earliest Muslimgauze recordings circa 1982-83, mastered from the original tapes and previously only available on a limited vinyl run a decade ago, now finally repressed in an individually numbered edition of 300 copies housed in a heavyweight tip on-style gatefold - if you want to hear Muslimgauze sounding like Dopplereffekt - this is an absolute must.

'Complete Oblique' comprehensively establishes the roots and early years of Bryn Jones a.k.a. Muslimgauze. Collecting all 3 of Jones' impossible-to-find cassettes for Kinematograph Tapes released between 1982-1983, plus his 7" for Bourbonese Qualk's Recloose Organization, it reveals a staggering corpus of coldwave electro instrumentals and machine-made prototypes for what would become one of the most distinctive catalogues in modern electronic music. For anyone familiar with the noisy, dub-heavy leanings of his later work, these 17 tracks may well come as a massive shock, sounding closer to John Bender, early NWW or Zoviet France's debut album, also issued in 1982, rather than what many might perceive to be a definitive "Muslimgauze" sound. What's perhaps most startling, though, is the appearance of icy melodies and loads of ghostly space in the recordings, as opposed to noise-saturated dub or sampled texturhythms. In that sense we can draw acute contemporary analogs between tracks such as "Fall Into Glass" or the super-rare "Extreme Faction (re-mix)" and the spine-tracing melodies of Heinrich Mueller or Skanfrom, and equally The Human League's 'The Dignity Of Labour Pts. 1-4'. It's a must-have collection for anyone who really wants to get to the creative core of early '80s electronic music, and no less than essential for Muslimgauze fanatics.

Boomkat

The following originally appeared on Spectrum Culture.

Rediscover: E.G Oblique Graph: Complete Oblique

Complete Oblique

Before beginning one of the busiest, most prolific careers in all underground and experimental music history as Muslimgauze, Bryn Jones began his explorations as E.G Oblique Graph. In typically restless and relentless style, Jones released four E.G Oblique Graph albums during 1982 and 1983, essentially right up to the second he kickstarted his Muslimgauze project with the Hammer & Sickle EP.

The four Complete Oblique recordings — Extended Play, Piano Room and Triptych from 1982 and 1983’s Inhalt — are a compelling prehistory of Muslimgauze, and essential listening for completists, but they’re even more interesting as a snapshot of the DIY/industrial music underground of the time. This makes it even more compelling and useful, as it’s a fine example of top-notch experimental industrial music and minimalist coldwave, but it also means it has some of that genre’s weaknesses – most notably, a focus on experimentation with not enough thought of musicality.

Despite being his earliest releases, the four E.G Oblique Graph releases that make up Complete Oblique are also Jones’ most challenging and uncompromising. This is quite an accomplishment in a discography nearly 400 albums deep made up largely of 10+ Middle Eastern drum jams, which are then dubbed out and degraded with every technique at a lofi industrial musician’s disposal. Much of Muslimgauze’s material feels downright poppy, with its insistent rhythms and occasional melodies, compared to the skeletal sparseness and abstract clinical ambiance of much of the material that makes up Complete Oblique. With its crude bleeping electronics and lofi rhythm boxes, tracks like “Merge,” from Extended Play or “Black Cloth Behind De Gaulle’s Wax Head,” from Triptych, sound more like early electronic pioneers like Dick Raaymakers or noise contemporaries like Merzbow than Frontline Assembly or Front 242.

This is also when Jones is at his best. The most experimental and exploratory recordings on offering across Complete Oblique are its most essential, most unique and most listenable. Longform droners like “Murders Linked to Gaullist Clique” or “The Piano Room” are truly hypnotic, mesmerizing and meditative and murky as an oil-slick scrying pool. They have the weird WTF energy of an early ’80s arthouse movie snatched off of late-night public access cable TV.

Much of Complete Oblique maintains this arthouse quality as Jones gets his fingers around all of the techniques at an experimental musician’s disposal. Running a tape backwards is one of Jones’ favorite tricks, used prolifically across all four of Complete Oblique”s sides (on the vinyl Vinyl-on-Demand issue). This gives tracks like “Rapid White Flag In Snapshot Blur” or “Affirm/Deny” a vintage David Lynch quality with many of the same charms, being willfully opaque, embracing its lofi limitations and being unafraid of longform structures. Much of what you’ll hear on Complete Obliques sounds more like a half-remembered dream, clinging like a cobweb upon waking, than anything meant for the dance floor.

These unsettling, uncompromising qualities means E.G Oblique Graph is always going to have a niche audience. It’s very much a product of its noisy times, with machines running straight to tape that capture it all like some unsleeping panopticon. How you feel about that approach will make or break how you feel about Complete Oblique. Those that like listening to experimentation and exploration and early electronic music enthusiasts will likely discover no shortage of revelations across Complete Oblique‘s four sides.

E.G Oblique Graph might have more in common with the DIY underground of its day, but you can still see and hear some evidence of Muslimgauze emerging amidst the noise and minimal wave. You can start to see examples of his elongated track titles alluding to contemporary political news stories, like “Murders Linked To Gaullist Clique,” “Black Cloth Behind De Gaulle’s Wax Head,” “Islamic Koran In Camera Dome” or “Rapid White Flag In Snapshot Blur.” Vaguely poetic, evocative titles referencing political turmoil paired with hypnotic minimalist electronics are some of Jones’ most lasting legacy, inspiring contemporary electronic artists like Vatican Shadow, so it’s beyond thrilling to watch it emerge in real-time. Consistency to the point of monomania is part of what makes Jones such a unique and essential artist, one of the most intriguing voices to emerge from the industrial underground who had gone far too soon.

By J Simpson (January 17, 2023)

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January 17, 2023