Recording as Muslimgauze, Bryn Jones released about a million albums, and at least seventy-five thousand of those were posthumous efforts, turded out in the studio faster than whoever was paying to have the things pressed and distributed could handle, at least up until Jones' unfortunate demise from a rare blood disease in 1999. About three or four hundred of those albums passed through my hands, having been sent to Ed Pinsent's Sound Projector for review way back whenever, and they sounded all right, but they mostly sounded like variations on a theme and I ended up passing them on to my friend Carl who seemed to enjoy them more than I did.
As has been noted on a number of occasions, Muslimgauze might be considered a somewhat contentious operation, what with his openly supporting Jihadist suicide bombings and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The music of Muslimgauze has been for the most part instrumental, with the supposedly political aspect represented by titles and packaging. I say supposedly because personally I've never been entirely convinced about where Jones' apparent fervour was coming from, and I wonder if he really knew himself.
The work of Muslimgauze fixates on Islam and the cultures of the Middle-East. Musically speaking this amounts to lengthy rhythmic pieces either utilising traditional Middle-Eastern instrumentation or else invoking a general effect amounting to the same just as a film soundtrack might evoke a certain culture without quite stooping to imitation. Given how greatly Muslimgauze fixates on Islam and the cultures of the Middle-East, it seems clear that this was a more than passing interest for Jones, and more than a mere aesthetic. Nevertheless, he wasn't a Muslim and he never actually visited an Islamic country, which always struck me as weird given how even I managed Morocco without really trying; and his interviews seem to vary from Muslimgauze as the musical branch of Hamas to no dude, it's just about the tunes so as not to scare those nice Wire readers. There's an argument for Muslimgauze as carrier of a certain anti-Semitic subtext given the Jihadist fixation, but I suspect the truth is more that Bryn Jones was probably just a sad man, living on his own and eating cheese footballs while watching Countdown followed by Richard and Judy, promoting what is actually some pretty decent music with a sabre-rattling helping of shock effects. He certainly hasn't done much to promote a positive image of Islam. The records are aesthetically fascinating, but it's hard to find amongst all that back catalogue a single version of Islam which isn't pointing a gun at you or threatening to chop off your hands for stealing a Hovis. To further reduce it to the essentials, it's a musical experiment utilising the exotic and alien as both structure and as a big scary monster, just like on a death metal record. Were I of Islamic persuasion, I don't think I'd be too happy to have this guy claiming to be on my side.
So before this all starts to sound a bit witch-hunty, I personally doubt that Bryn Jones was ever an anti-Semite, but - and may Allah forgive me for speaking ill of those who have passed on - I suspect he was probably a colossal knob in certain respects, not least that he presented an image of Islam which is more or less indistinguishable from the one I see on Fox News every night; and the last thing this world needs at this end of the twentieth century is more demons.
This album is one of three Muslimgauze records given to me by a fucking cheeky noise music cunt of my former acquaintance who once stayed at my house, ate my food, knackered my tape deck, and then left me a stack of industrial vinyl records as either apology or payment. I was pissed off, but I suppose I shouldn't complain seeing as said records have all turned out to be worth a fucking fortune in recent years, and this is one of them, and for all it being the work of a colossal knob, it is a pretty great record, a fruit of the days when Muslimgauze albums sounded different to each other. This one drones and thumps and pounds, invoking all the stuff you will probably expect if you've read reviews of other Muslimgauze records; and it's hypnotic, and surprisingly beautiful in places. I suppose if nothing else, Jones' silly affectations have at least prevented his work ending up in either the new age or world music ghetto, but it still seems a shame that he had to be such a twat.