Jaagheed Zarb

Review from Other Music in New York.

"Posthumously prolific Muslimgauze (aka Bryn Jones) unleashes more politically charged Middle Eastern-tinged electronics onto an unsuspecting world. Limited to 700 copies, these two CDs are the first in a series, bound to be collector-worthy. The pieces haven't lost their luster in the archives, with the controversial, even shocking titles and images they evoke, lead by cut-and-paste Middle Eastern chants, tablas, koras and oud-like samples. "Army of Females Wearing Latex Gadaffi Masks" creates a disturbing picture while the track twists ears; this is not a typical Muslimgauze ditty, it's almost minimal tech/house dance floor fodder! Jah-Mearab goes even further down the four-on-the-floor rhythm path toward the breakbeat desert with "Tongue in Cheek Remover" and "Ali Loop Bin Laden," ending with an experimental hip-hop beat on "In Search of Sudan Nerve Gas." Although jarring in some places for Muslimgauze traditionalists, it's the most accessible release since Lo-Fi India Abuse.

Jaagheed Zarb continues where Jah-Mearab left off, introducing almost funky hip-hop beats, interspersed with vocal snippets, and on the first track a static-y loop and eerie nay (a Middle Eastern flute) whispering through it all. In case you forgot about his signature terrifying low-end, it permeates both albums in abundance, especially on the minimal bowel-rumbling "Fazal Mahmood on Juke," the Prodigy on a broken spring track "Turn Left for Jabaliya," and amid the laid-back, rhythmic assassin, call-to-arms "Iranian Silkworm." A few more surprises lurk on this album including the space at the end of "Fazal Mahmood" -- escaping from the tape hiss is a tinny, straightforward bazaar jam, as if recorded through a boombox in a crowded market -- and the last part of "Hafeez Kardar," where extended seconds of radio fuzz oscillate from subtle noise to crystallized tabla and percussion, filtering through like sand. It skitters into the last track, electronics gobbed onto background noise and monolithic electronics.

Both albums are must-haves for Muslimgauze fans, as well as being good starting points for a newcomer to begin their collection."

review by LG

The following appears on Brainwashed.

The Tupac of the experimental world, even some nine years after his death, various labels are still issuing posthumous work from Bryn Jones. However, unlike Mr. Shakur, these aren't ramshackle scraps slapped together to make a quick buck, they're simply the product of one extremely prolific artist. The second volume of Staalplaat's Archive Series (the label that, at one point, was receiving a full length DAT a week of new material), this disc compiles mostly previously released material, including the whole Jaagheed Zarb LP that was issued as one fourth of the Tandoori Dog set, three of the four tracks from the MP3 only Melt EP, and three unreleased tracks.

Throughout his prolific, but unfortunately short, career, Muslimgauze had a variety of phases that usually stuck as a thematic, per-album feel. There was the more traditional Middle Eastern tracks, some with a dance bent, some with an overly noisy edge, and some of a purely abstract nature. The bulk of the material on here falls into my favorite phase, the lo-if hip-hop influenced dubby stuff. Jaagheed Zarb, though it is a collection of different tracks, feels like a coherent work that could have been intended as a full length album.

This style of Muslimgauze is based heavily on repetition, but the tracks never go too long to make them boring, but instead stay compelling. There’s only two “long” tracks, seven to eight minutes each, are also the most idiosyncratic among the collection. If I hadn’t known better, I would assume “Vinoo Mankad Option” and “Hafeez Kardar” were double A sides from a previous 12-inch. The former is one of the more conventional works in Jones’ discography, featuring a steady club influenced beat, more obvious Middle Eastern instrumentation and vocal loops, and little of the usual noisy elements that usually pop up. Other than a few shoddy delays, this could be a different artist entirely. The metaphorical flip side is one of the most abstract works he’s done: sputtering, cut up drums run through a rusty old spring reverb unit, cut up tape and lots of elements.

As a sporadic fan during Muslimgauze’s career (I picked up an album here and there, but didn’t have the income to be a real hardcore listener), I never had the Tandoori Dog box set, so this material is mostly new to me. As aforementioned, it follows the general pattern of other works, heavily focused on hip-hop style beats (according to legend Jones would never use samplers or pre-recorded loops, but played everything live). If this is the case, he does a few very good impressions of the old “Funky Drummer” beat on a few of these. The dub elements are also rather pronounced on here, both “Sari of Human Hair” and “Sari of Dog Hair” feature a more low end kick pulse than the others, subtle organ stabs, and a more open, sparse mix that is more in line with a traditional “version” than the other tracks’ denser, noise tinged pieces.

The tracks that were previously on the “MP3 only” Melt EP (back before this was fashionable) were ones I was more familiar with, and hearing the opening beat, I was taken back to some 10 years ago listening to this material, which is, I’m sure, still on a MiniDisc in my closet somewhere. Both “Melt” and “Turn Left For Jabaliya” from this EP show up in alternate forms on the Tandoori Dog tracks, but as a whole the Melt versions are rougher around the edges and show more of a noise bent.

The three unreleased tracks, “Zionist Leather Clad Koran, “Kiss of Deceit,” and “Nadir Bedu” are somewhat different, but still fit in with the overall feel. The first is a short piece of extremely hissy, slow-paced beat material that sounds like it was pulled from an analog cassette that had been baking in the desert sun. “Kiss of Deceit” is the most traditional hip-hop sounding on here: though using traditional Middle Eastern percussion, the beat is a stiff hip-hop breakbeat, and with bass heavy elements to match. Finally, “Nadir Bedu” leans to the noisy analog synth elements: Jones’ love of Luddite technology is apparent, as are the tabla drums.

It’s cliché by now, but I too wonder if Jones were still alive today how his music would be affected by the current socio-political climate regarding the Middle East and Islam. As aggressive as his work was previously, the extra level of anger that could have been implemented in his art would probably be striking in this day and age. Unfortunately, that will never come to be.

review by Creaig Dunton (July 27, 2008)

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Jaagheed Zarb Jaagheed Zarby (digital re-issue)

May 25, 2020