Demo, Techno Arabaqua & Arab American Radio

The following appeared in The Rocket.

Some two decades have passed since Bryn Jones passed away from a rare blood infection in his native Manchester, but his music keeps on coming. After all this time, it's easy to be sceptical about the prospect of fresh Muslimgauze material. But in his lifetime, Jones was furiously prolific and in a sense, the vast quantity of music out there is supportive, rather than detrimental, to the Muslimgauze myth. As with, say, The Fall, something about the byzantine depths and strange twists and turns of Jones's catalogue works in the service of the artist. Always the same, always different.

Demo, Techno Arabaqua and Arab American Radio are the first three releases of a new batch of recordings uncovered by Staalplaat, who released much of Jones's music during his lifetime and received his archives after his death. It would be hyperbolic to describe them as major works — they have the feel of rehearsal tapes, rough and ready canvases for experimentation, and their release is accordingly humble: downloads via Bandcamp, with some nicely designed limited edition cassettes for collectors.

Certain threads run throughout Jones's Muslimgauze work — a fascination for Middle Eastern instrumentation that went hand in hand with his strident pro-Arab political consciousness; and a shadowy, enigmatic quality that made the stridency of his politics easy to avoid, if you so chose. Of these new releases. Demo is much in line with Jones's 1980s recordings, a set of primitive percussion tracks assembled from hand drums, chimes and simple effects, and possessed of a coldly malevolent focus.

What makes the Muslimgauze catalogue is tracking how Jones responded to new technologies — you can literally hear him picking up new equipment, mastering it and dismissing it in favour of the next thing. The three tracks of Techno Arabaqua explore a moxiy, rugged techno that's fairly distinct in his catalogue, dusty snares and acid blips on manoeuvres around an advancing kickdrum. Most interesting of these three cassettes, though, is Arab American Radio. In five comparatively brief tracks, it takes in a psychotic hand-drum excursion blitzed with eruptions of noise, a chaotic experiment in drum 'n' bass tempos, and a couple of tracks that find Jones futzing around with sampled breakbeats.

review by Louis Pattison
This text originally appeared in The Wire magazine (issue # 444).

see also Arab American Radio, Demo & Techno Arabaqua

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Demo (Cas) Demo (Dig) Techno Arabaqua (Cas) Techno Arabaqua (Dig) Arab American Radio (Cas) Arab American Radio (Dig)

May 12, 2021