Muslimgauze – “From The Edge: Remixes Vol. 1” (2003)

I wrote previously about Muslimgauze and the challenge in separating the person from the art (this was in my post about his project under the name E.g Oblique Graph), something I’ve continued to grapple with. But I do like his music, and this 12″ sucked me in with it’s inclusion of a Chris and Cosey remix, so here I am, mildly conflicted yet enjoying my listening experience.

The good news is that Chris and Cosey don’t disappoint with their minimal, dreamy, otherworldly take on “From the Edge”, one that is so different from the other side A remix by The Silver Wizard that you could be forgiven for assuming the tracks have absolutely no elements in common. A shoutout as well for the version done by Spacetime Continuum, which is also excellent.

E.g Oblique Graph – “Complete Oblique” (2006)

Sometimes ethical conundrums get in the way of our ability to enjoy music. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that our ethical perceptions of the artist impact how we hear their music, whether that be how we interpret their art or, quite bluntly, whether we’ll even allow ourselves to listen to and/or enjoy it.

Musicians, like every other subset of homo sapiens on the planet, count among their ranks various types of dirtbags. Some of these are fairly apparent and we can all agree on them, like in the case of pedophile Gary Glitter. Of course, sometimes the quality of the art and before-we-knew-you-were-so-terrible-we-loved-you popularity has an impact. People are still buying plenty of Michael Jackson records and for many of us who grew up with his music, whether it was part of the Jackson 5 or his later solo material, it can be hard to completely step away from those songs despite what came out later about his behavior. Even Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” still gets played in some sports arenas, despite his unquestionable status as a revolting human being. It’s easy for us to take the high moral ground and shake our fists at the air to rail against injustice… but when the music is catchy, sometimes our righteousness is diminished.

I too have found myself in this moralistic dilemma. Do the sins (and in many cases crimes) of the artist make their art null and void? To some extent it depends on the sin. Drug abuse? No problem. You’re a musician. You’re almost expected to do that. Break a fan’s camera or cell phone? Meh. People will get over it pretty quickly after the initial furor. Even causing someone’s death in a drunk driving accident didn’t seem to hurt Vince Neil’s career too badly. It certainly depends on the severity of the crime… but also the quality of the art. Is that right? Probably not. But it’s the truth.

What about when our differences with the artist are political? I’m not too concerned with the “so-and-so supports the [fill in political party here] and I support the other party” kind of thing, though there are people who will stop listening to an artist and video themselves publicly burning their albums for social media likes for that very reason. And hey, that’s your right. Seems a bit extreme if the music itself isn’t overtly political, but knock yourself out. When political views get more extreme and outside the mainstream this becomes a bit more intense. Sometimes the choice is pretty easy. Try to tell people how you only listen to Skrewdriver because you like the music, and chances are people are going to assume you lean towards white power. Some artists manage to balance along the razor’s edge leaving enough room for doubt, like Death In June’s Douglas P. I have one of his records, and frankly it makes me a bit uneasy.

That’s a lot of words to get me to E.g Oblique Graph, a.k.a. Muslimgauze, a.k.a. Bryn Jones. Jones was a white, non-Muslim Englishman who was vocally pro-Palestine and anti-Israel. So much so that in a 1994 interview with the Village Voice he condoned the use of suicide bombings against civilian targets (specifically a bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv) as a valid form of resistance. Now, I have a certain amount of faith in humanity, and I think that the overwhelming number of people can agree that suicide bombing a commuter bus is, in and of itself, completely and totally abhorrent. If it’s done within some kind of politico-military context, some will see the lines blurred, and that’s where Jones was coming from, as he noted “They’re fighting for the people. I don’t think you can criticize them from the outside.” But take away that context, and hopefully 99.999% of all humans agree killing people going about their daily business is awful.

But how does that make me feel about Jones’ music? Leaving aside my thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, I’m one of those people who sees blowing up a bus full of people going to work and school as something I simply can’t get behind. Should that impact how I interact with Complete Oblique? Sonically this collection of 17 tracks from the early 1980s is unpolitical. It’s non-vocal electronic music. There are some audio samples, but there’s nothing about these songs that is clearly political, other than some of the titles, of course, with tracks like “Castro Regime”, “Murders Linked To Gaullist Clique”, and “Human Rights” certainly pointing towards some type of political inclination, though not necessarily in any definitive way. Is “Castro Regime” pro-Castro, or anti-Castro, or something else entirely? I don’t know. Jones died of a rare fungal blood infection in 1999 at the age of 37 (♠), so we can’t ask him now, nor can we see how his political views would have evolved.

Should any of that impact whether or not I listen to Complete Oblique? Honestly, I don’t know. I know I like the music. A lot. So I’ll leave it for you to decide for yourself. But if you are interested in exploring it, I think you’ll find it sonically intriguing.

(♠) And yes, there is a conspiracy theory that he was assassinated by the Mossad for his public anti-Israel statements.