Azure Deux

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Operating well beneath the radar of the mainstream (and even much of the "alternative") music press, Bryn Jones managed to release a huge amount of material under the nom de plume Muslimgauze before his untimely death from a rare blood infection in 1999. Of course, much of that output was in the form of extremely limited-edition albums, some of them pressed in one-time runs of several hundred copies, so it's no wonder that the Muslimgauze catalog is something of a little-explored frontier. Azure Deux, uncharacteristically, compiles 13 tracks from three out-of-print albums (Sandtrafikar, Zuriff Moussa, and the three-disc set Fatah Guerilla). As is often the case with this artist, the music is consistently compelling in ways that aren't always easy to explain; North African percussion is generally at the center of each track (as with "Imam Shamil 1837" and the deeply dub-inflected "Devour"), and there is sometimes little else going on -- perhaps a cut-up vocal sample, a keening violin, or an oud. At other times, as on "Thief of Sand," the sounds of stringed instruments and hand drums alternate with heavily distorted bass; "Lost Zwana" combines violins and eerie computer tones. All of it will appeal enormously to anyone whose tastes run both to ethnomusicology and avant-garde electro.

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