A Journal Of The Dark Arts
On his fourth LP, Bryn Jones fully comes into his own as Muslimgauze while still containing some anomalies and retaining some atavistic traits of his earliest works.
For those that know, saying the name Muslimgauze immediately brings a sound to mind – Arabic locked groove breakbeats and atmospheric vocal samples and field recordings mostly focused on the Middle East, especially the Palestinian conflict, which are then treated with a battery of live electronic music and dub techniques. For a man with nearly 400 albums in his discography, Bryn Jones could be remarkably consistent, both sonically as well as thematically.
Jones’ first five releases, issued between 1983 and 1984, find the producer in his fledgling state, holdovers from his earliest work as E.G Oblique Graph. Jones’ Middle Eastern polyrhythms, Muslimgauze’s most defining and distinctive feature, are in short supply, for instance. Instead, early albums like Kabul or Opaques have more of a coldwave feel, sounding more like early ’80s arty New Wave or proto-EBM industrial than his usual arabic dub, although shot through with his signature ethnographic field recordings.
Blinded Horses feels like the first fully-formed Muslimgauze album, where all the project’s most distinctive features exist fully intact. Most notable is the A Side closer, “Palestine,” a nearly 10-minute long droner full of skeletal beats and protest chants, all drowned in deep pools of dubby echo and reverb. It’s the first outright reference to the Israel/Palestine conflict which would obsess Jones for the remainder of his life before his tragically early death in 1999.
Blinded Horses has its anomalies, though. There’s the weirdly irregular beat, “Plainsong” wind chimes, and kamikaze martial vocal samples of album opener “Byzantine Crucifixion,” which sounds more like a heart murmur than dancefloor fodder.
B-side opener “Death of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale” sounds almost New Age, on the other hand, with its bamboo flutes and jungle sounds, sounding oddly peaceful and beautiful. It’s like a guided meditation into the Heart of Darkness by way of Tarkovsky or binaural beta wave maximalization for the Drowned World. It’s a stunner and a standout of Muslimgauze’s early catalog.
With that being said, Blinded Horses feels like a slight offering. It’s fully formed and fully realized but it still feels like Muslimgauze finding his way – although that quality persists across his endless discography. His work often has an exploratory, experimental quality, being endlessly tweaked, prodded, sculpted in real-time, which is part of what makes it so compelling, such a rich sonic world to wander around and get lost in. It’s the polar opposite of the hermetically-sealed, precision-machined electronic music that often dominates the dance music charts. Instead, it pairs the dub selectah’s dread with musique concrète Burroughsian sense of skewed reality. Most importantly of all, it feels personal, unique, individualistic, even if the fascinations mostly existed as the ghost of an idea in Jones’ head.
Even so, Blinded Horses is well worth a listen. Do yourself a favour and listen through a pair of good headphones or a decent soundsystem – which, of course, should go without saying – but the magic is truly in the details. You don’t want to miss the gorgeous amorphous ambient strings swirling in the background of “Byzantine Crucifixion” or the glistening bells of “Zebra Slaughter.” Listen carefully and truly appreciate Jones’ talent as a careful, patient, and distinctive producer.
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