The following appeared in Sounds.
“A C60 containing instrumental sound collages” is how the maker describes 'Piano Room’ by E.G. Oblique Graph. The noises emanate entirely from tapes and a synth, but manage to avoid the common pitfalls of turgid repetition and barren formlessness, which are quite common in undertakings of this kind.
The one man Oblique Graph creates a likeable, almost hummable in parts, stern beauty. Some tracks place a lot of emphasis on percussion and while it must be said the sameness of the synbeatings gets a trifle monotonous, overall there are plenty of ideas and imagination to sustain ear attention for the full hour. Exceedingly good sound quality too.
Available for £2.00 directed to Bryn Jones.
tape review Sounds (July 17, 1982)
The following is an exclusive review.
A brief note in the Muslimgauze discussion group, and a wormhole opens in the net. An FTP site somewhere in Europe has got a piece by Muslimgauze called Piano Room in its MPEG archive. A visit shows that indeed it has a full 'copy' of something of a holy grail - the first cassette release, under the name E.g Oblique Graph. Bryn Jones himself didn't have a copy and 'The Edge' has been looking for some time. Interested in hearing this very early material, I get a download going. The line is slow and shaky, and it takes a few goes to get it all. When I return the next day to look at what was listed as Coup d'Etat - realising it may have some tracks from the original cassette not on the split disk - the site is non-available. The guess is that the traffic from the Muslimgauze fans has alerted the sites ISP, who has shut it down.
There are 7 tracks - six shorter ones made up side one, while the title track filled all 21 minutes of the second side. 'Scar' layers ping and a tictoc loops which subtly change over an extended drone which rhythmically sounds a gunshot and some deep voices - an almost Muslimgauze sound which broods intensely. There is a stronger beat to 'Affirm/deny' which opens with rapid swirling phasing poppop rhythm loops, background noises and a two-tone synth loopmelody. Near to half way through the ground drops out, leaving the puttering, which then fades out: to be replaced by some space-synth sounds centred by a regular beat (is this section Deny?) that shifts into a longer part where various tones are given a dub-echo treatment in a wild and wooly soundspace.
'Choir-screen' treads new ground - either samples of choirs or an effect on the synth create a spooky haunted music from these almostvoice-sounds which sweep and swirl ethereally through the track, joined by a doom-leaden beat later: the method will appear in the title track. The short (just over 2 minutes) 'Human rights' follows (a very Muslimgauze title) and features a simple melody phased and echoed and seemingly played with backwards tones, a knocking percussion echoed below (it reminds me of some backward King Crimson mellotron I heard on a mangled tape). The structure of 'Scar' returns with 'After commentary' - layers of electronica - looping simple percussive sounds, a deep drone, recurring backward pulsing tones. The various looplengths play against each other, and tweaks are made here and there.
E.g Oblique shifts into extended gear with 'Off chance' (eight+ minutes), and has an almost Middle Eastern ambience. A quite rapid popping loop is joined by a sinuous synth line which has some presentiment of the later sound. This runs for about 3 minutes, phasing and changing, before it fades and a new piece emerges - abstract and angular, noises emerge from a pulsing drone, phase and echo, retreat. A voice then a simple regular strike, a beat and backwards sounds play around it, but it remains a focus, a strange oblique sound. Sounds echo, and gradually a grinding drone comes to the fore, and the track ends with it accompanied by random sounds.
The title track opens with a jittering echo waving behind a synth-harpsichord melody, slips to just the echo alone, which begins a sequence of shifting and changing pieces - it is more like a series of tracks which have been edited together - there is no obvious rhyme or reason for the changes. A short burst of industrial rhythm gives way to a heli-drone over which rapid beaty clicks grows and fades; echoed voices phased with clicks and backward tones (a repeated element) have a concrete feel; an echoed voice with a return of the beat; random noises - high-pitched, crackles - and an echoed tone similar to one in 'Off chance'; a whipwhip beat with tones and clicks; echoed backward tones; hollow clicks; a more complex climax of a phutphut looped beat and backwards sounds manipulated and joined by the choir from 'Choir-screen' but more consistent and pulsing, leading into an extended sequence of voices at a party; then some final tinny music.
This is not a Muslimgauze album and, while it has similarities to the 'Hammer and Sickle' single, it would be hard to hear the future sound in much of this - though some of the techniques are there. Rather it is the sound of someone enthusiastically experimenting with sounds and technology. It is impossible to say how I would respond if I had come to it out of the blue - it is fairly crude, but also interesting, and very much of its time.
It is fascinating to hear this album, and while it is a pirate and illegal version I don't feel very guilty. The cassette has been out of print and unavailable for so long it would be well nigh impossible to buy one - and if you could none of the copyright owners would get any of the probably very inflated cost. And if it were re-released I would buy a copy to get better sound quality (it is hard to say whether the sound is original or what has been lost in the tape->MP3->de-MPEGing->CD burn process). But not much of the material on the site had a similar 'lost' status - so I wouldn't generalise from this one item to overall support from free access to MPEGs - but that's another issue. As a Muslimgauze fan, I am very glad to have reached through the window of opportunity and grabbed this.
review by Jeremy Keens
This review originally appeared May 28, 2000
January 11, 2017