Wednesday, August 7, 2013

TIMR 21: Muslimgauze

Iranian Womens Table Tennis Team
A couple of objects to represent my Muslimgauze collection/obsession. 

Bryan Jones, Manchester based musician, was a fascinating and confounding character. His interest in the Arab/Israel conflict, and then more widely the Muslim/west interactions provided a polemic for his music often heightened by choices made by his labels for cover images: and his music was often denounced as antiisraeli or antisemitic. But for every Hebron Massacre, Azzazzin, Vote Hezbollah or Rape of Palestine there were many Arab Quarter, Gun Aramaic, Lahore & Marseille, Azad or Hand of Fatima. And albums or tracks often belied a wicked sense of humour. 

The music is far from polemic. Rhythmic, melodic, infused with samples, hypnotic, distorted, monolithic, subtle are some possible descriptors. In simple terms Muslimgauze work in a relatively narrow range, but does it with a skill and facility which makes each album different. 

Perhaps the main criticism that can be made is that Muslimgauze's reputation may have benefitted from judicious editing. He initially released his own albums and then found labels who were willing to release just about everything (& he released on many labels simultaneously - but mainly Staalplaat and Soleilmoon), including a subscription series. Thus there is a huge catalogue - not a problem for the fan (except the full-on collector) but can make it hard for someone looking from outside to find a way in. It also means that albums are referred to by their 'period' sound (early rhythmic, late crunchy) or broad classifications. 

On the issue of how much is too much, I think that the net has in many ways closed that question. Artists can now make available as much of their creation as they want easily and cheaply - examples would be DGM, Dave Stafford's eternal albums or YouTube channel - and if people want all you can offer, fine: no one is made to buy anything. And for the monied collectors there are multibox anniversary etc reissues (anyone want to buy Road to Red for (pounds)150?). 

My first Muslimgauze release was Veiled Sister - from Peril - a beautiful slowrhythmic ambience. As a bit of an obsessive I started collecting. In those early days the Internet was used to arrange physical exchanges. I swapped Fax items for Muslimgauze and my collection grew. I bought some from Staalplaat, and also started getting free ones when I got on their reviewer list. 

Bennett deceiver
Along the way I came in contact with Terry Bennett who runs the Messenger, a website dedicated to Muslimgauze, including the essential discography. I think Terry did much to keep the Muslimgauze flame alight. 

Anyway, I became the 'official' reviewer for the website & many of my reviews appear attached to releases there. Terry also sent me copied of some releases - only ever out of print items, with recreated covers. 

The complete oblique
One of my proudest musical moments is an acknowledgement on the cover of the release Terry did of pre Muslimgauze Bryn - the Complete Oblique. Funny, seeing my name on a physical release really chuffs me. 

(Other proud moments, for the record, every time an artist has thanked me for a review, when people send me unique or very limited releases. Humbling moments: when I look at all the music that people have entrusted to me to comment on).  

Anyway, I have too much Muslimgauze and indeed too much music. I can never play anyone enough - if I started my iTunes library this morning it would keep going for nearly 200 days. But I regularly play something by Muslimgauze and am never disappointed. 


Terry Bennett said...

Shucks Jeremy you've made me blush... ;-)

Unknown said...

Good! TIMR could at times be called PNIMR - people not in my room, as it is often another way to thank and recognise people whove have been helpful/generous over the years. perhaps to avoid the by defintion self focus of a blog like this.

Playing veiled Sisters at the moment - when writing the blog I said that I couldn't remember the first MG album I got, then I looked at the Messenger & saw my Bio - which had the truth. And it is another problem with too much music - you forget some: I still think this is one of the best.

I was going to write something about subc verting the solipsistic nature of a blog by talking about other people, but it is still all about me. But it gives me a chance to recount a joke I recntly heard.

It was on Richard herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast (comedy is even harder to recommend than music, but if I had to recommend someone, if I had to, it would be Richard - puerile, rude, funny and thoughtful)anyway

A: What would you say was your biggest weakness?
B: (thinks) I can be too honest
A: That's not really a weakness but a strength
B: I couldn't give a fig wjhat you think