Monday, March 23, 2009
Muslimgauze - Sulaymaniyah (Staalplaat CD)
Just in from Brainwashed:
In the seemingly endless discography of Muslimgauze, sometimes it's tough to know where to start or, even worse, where to end. Bryn Jones produced so much music during his sadly shortened life that sifting through it all can feel more like an archival endeavor than a journey into the mind of one of the most impressive and singular electronic musicians of his time. This disc, part of an archive series collecting various shelved projects from Jones, demonstrates simultaneously the depth and the prolific compulsions of the electro-genius.
Actually this disc, in a matter of speaking, has already been released before. Drawn from masters that were later retracted in favor of those that would become 1998's Vampire Of Tehran, this collection is essentially that album with two tracks missing and nine more added. While this may sound like a lot of bonus material—and it is—the album hardly reads like an attempt to squish as much in to one disc as possible even though they're nearing it with almost 70 minutes of music here. Still, Jones' precise concoctions are so stylistically singular that the whole of the disc reads like an album, not a compilation.
Stylistically speaking, Jones sticks with his usual ammo on this release, mixing an ample amount of Arabic source material with breakbeat, electro and dub tactics. The result is a relatively mobile and downright dancey release. Which is not to say that this is poppy in the slightest. If anything, the constraints placed on the music by the clear and propulsive rhythms serve as markers that Jones variously avoids, dabbles over and treads across with samples galore.
Take "Satsuma Tablet" for example. This looping rhythm features no lyrics at all, instead riding along the rhythm with blips and blurts as an Arabesque melodic fragment is repeated into oblivion. On the other hand, the following "Arabs Improved Zpain" features a four-four beat straight out of an NWA track. Underneath, reversed strings and a female vocal dance amongst each other, diverging, interlocking and generally keeping things interesting despite the miniscule amount of material being utilized.
If anything, that may have been Jones' greatest strength. Each track here makes the most out of only a few spare parts—it is the way they are combined, recombined, sampled and treated that shapes the movement. The result is a nearly vertical sonic consideration unheard of in this sort of rhythmic setting. Tracks like "North Africa is Not So Far Away" don't proceed so much as they morph, bending a fragment guitar line, a steady bass groove, a rhythm track and a vocal sample into a dub groove that could last long enough to accompany a Saharan trek.
Other displays of his depth can be seen on tracks like "Straps Sticks of Dynamite Around Her Body," a gentle and moody piece whose intimate Arabic string gestures and spare beat exude just the kind of grim scene that the title suggests without providing answers to its questions. It is this attention to detail and, above all else, the works themselves and what they say that keep nearly all of Muslimgauze's works interesting. This one is no different which is great on the one hand. On the other, it's no different, and could just as easily be lost in the shuffle of the 50 other Muslimgauze albums you've already managed to get your hands on.