Milk Factory (UK):
Crackle inhabits the first four minutes of this new version of Gavin Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic. It’s an ominous sound. Heard on old blues records it’s the sound of time passed. And cultural distance. Here it also suggests, perhaps rather inevitably, the cracking of ice.
Strings ebb and swell in mournful, elegiac fashion and are occasionally pierced by reverberating percussion that could be the dripping of water into pools. An elderly, well-spoken woman recalls going up on deck at the twenty minute mark. Her confident chatter and sudden eruption into song make for a simultaneously familiar and completely otherworldly experience.
The clank and clangor that rise and fall through this music suggests the industry that produced the great ocean liner as well as the great engines and massive bulk of the vessel.
The music that forms the thread of Bryars’s composition is an ongoing treatment of Autumn, the Episcopal hymn which junior wireless operator Harold Bride reported hearing played by a string sextet on the deck as the Titanic sank between 2.15 and 2.20am on April 15th 1912. It continues, gentle and stately, washed by static, at times quieter, at times louder, through to the end of the piece’s 72 minutes.
Cyclic defrost (USA):
Playing the episcopal hymn “Autumn” moments before the famously unsinkable luxury liner did precisely that on the afternoon of April fifteenth, a small group of string players made a gift of their lives, a self-sacrifice to which Gavin Bryars responded magnanimously, creating a classic semi-aletaoric work, The Sinking Of The Titanic, in 1969. Bryars’ work builds out as an ongoing treatment of “Autumn”, as sublime string swells slide slowly into melodic unison, escalating in volume and density, while percussion shapes a rough pulse.
On this occasion, Bryars, who handles double bass, is accompanied by Italian ensemble Alter Ego and turntablist Philip Jeck. Understandably, then, the work has a certain electronic feel, particularly the opening four minutes, which largely swim in static. It’s a move that strongly brings out the nature of this work and the event that it captures as being symbolic of the failure of modern technology and the paradox of modernity. More emphasis is also given to the field recordings, which have never before been presented with such clarity; their inclusion now providing a fine example of reality obscuring the difference between life and art.
Still, the albums progression remains wonderfully elegant, slow, natural even. At measured points throughout the work, each part proudly proclaims independence while being enigmatically lodged into the whole. Both Alter Ego and Jeck display their own talents, but they divert them equally as much to the service of others and to the piece in general, altering their personal aesthetic in a perpetual concentration on the details. The original work is thereby truthfully erected, only awash in special tone colors and feral microtonal inflections that accentuate it beautifully. The album comes in a wallet-like package with a postcard from Andrew Hooker, and it surely stands as another exorbitant gift from the players on hand. [Max Schaefer]
Tiny Mix Tapes (USA):
Fittingly recorded three years ago in the sinking city of Venice, Gavin Bryars’ newly released realization of his most well-known, 39-year-old composition, The Sinking of the Titanic, is a horrifyingly beautiful, trance-inducing phenomenon of conceptual genius. While former versions have certainly done the piece justice, the addition of the Alter Ego ensemble and turntabilist Philip Jeck heighten the piece’s focus on its main obsession: the metaphorical failure of modern technology to trump nature.
Fixated on the myth that the sinking Titanic’s chamber group played on until the very last possible moment, Bryars has Alter Ego weaving lines of the heart- wrenching Episcopalian hymn “Autumn” underneath an oscillating veil of electronic noise from Jeck. Conceptually, this makes sense, as Bryars reminds us that “the band was not only playing ultimately in water, but also with the ship standing almost perpendicular in the water for these last five minutes... we know that the band was playing outside the gymnasium doors, and these formerly vertical open doors would have become the horizontal floor that served as their last bandstand (in the ship’s vertical configuration).”
The exploration of water’s effect on sound and reverberation is also impeccably framed by the interspersed tape loops of morse code, crickets, and crowd noise. Never too representational or esoteric, this version of the piece is the most fluid to date. This fluidity speaks clearly about the ingenuity of the piece, which, despite its challenging sounds, is full of intrinsic emotional snapshots. The comforting orchestral repetition of the band’s symbolic sacrifice is tasteful, speaking for itself in the way that the most successful pieces of minimalist music do. Like Bryars’ other composition, Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet, this new version of an old classic makes words seem futile. [Plastique Song]
Originally written in 1969, The Sinking Of The Titanic is an open, semi-aleatoric piece of music by Gavin Bryars that's been developed over the years into pieces of varying lengths (anywhere from fifteen minutes to over an hour), both as a sound installation and actual concert performance. It's already been put out in recorded form twice already (once as a live recording, and once as a studio piece), but now finds new life yet again on this limited edition release from Touch.
In terms of personnel assembled alone, this version of Sinking The Titanic starts with a solid foundation. Known for their performances of Philip Glass work (among others), Alter Ego is a music ensemble out of Italy that specializes in contemporary performances, while ambient/experimental musician Philip Jeck mans the turntables and Bryars himself provides upright bass. Going for the endurance record (at least on recorded versions), these performers stretch the piece out to over seventy minutes as they expand on ideas introduced in other performances while adding their own flavors as well.
The biggest difference here are probably the additions by Jeck, who creeps in and out of the mix while nearly always making his presence felt. At times, he coats the recording in a thin haze of his magic decaying dust, while in others he drifts away and lets the sad orchestration of Alter Ego and Bryars creep through. In fact, the entire long opening section sounds like backing music for a dive to the bottom of the ocean wreckage as Jeck adds crackling loops while deep string drones sweep behind it. Eventually, the cloudy water clears, and the sad melody of "Autumn" (a hymn that the onboard string quartet of the Titanic played as it went down) swirls in.
As the piece progresses, recordings of survivors talking about their memories of that night crop up, along with lost bits of music from the era and other sounds. In one completely unexpected move, Alter Ego teases out a beautiful, and slightly uplifting moment about an hour into the recording that takes the performance in a different direction if only for a moment. Even more than the other recorded versions, this new version seems to convey a real true sense of disintegration of both physical objects and memories themselves. Live instrumentation rises up out of murky depths and then fragments and falls apart while spoken passages appear out of a half-remembered haze and then get clouded again or simply overtaken.
Recorded live at the 49th International Festival of Contemporary Music at The Venice Biennale in 2005, The Sinking Of The Titanic (1969-) contains certain elements of both the recorded in an empty water-tower live version (which is now out-of-print) released on Crepuscule Records in 1990 and the Point Records version released in 1995. Although you can't hear any crowd noise, the soft reverb of the live setting and some of the other imperfections (such as the soft spittle noises on the reeds of the woodwinds) work nicely within the context of the piece. An average person probably doesn't need three different versions of this recording in their collection, but if you're a fan of ambient music or even modern classical and you don't yet have it, this may very well be the best version to get.
Gavin Bryars' 'The Sinking of the Titanic' is, and I say this with confidence, one of the finest pieces of music you could ever wish to own. Written in 1969 it has journeyed through the lands of modern classical, experimental and electronic music netting dedicated followers on its way, and each and every time I hear it I become more convinced of its genius. Bryars wrote the piece to mirror the last moments of the doomed voyage, when the Titanic sunk and famously the band played on. According to survivors the music being played was a rendition of 'Autumn', an Episcopal hymn which forms the basis of Bryars' composition. The notes and phrases from the hymn are worked in and out of the piece, sinking through the waters, effected by time, nostalgia and the cavernous reverberations of the ship itself with each scrape and hiss worked into Bryars' incredible vision. For this special performance of the piece we see Bryars (on double bass) alongside Italian ensemble Alter Ego (not to be confused with the German electronic duo of the same name) and experimental turntablist Philip Jeck, and the result is arguably its most stunning rendition to date. The most noticeable addition is Jeck, whose expertise and unique style seems to fit like the final piece of the puzzle as his crackles and motifs melt into the architecture of the recording as if they had always been there. This additional layer of nostalgia brought forth by these found sounds adds a significant sense of history, forcing the mind back into hazy film footage and decomposed photos, a perfect match for the subject matter. Also of note are Alter Ego, who surprised me with their stunning renditions of Philip Glass recently, and work comparable magic here on Bryars' composition, with their ensemble bringing in the sounds of bottles, tape recorders, laptops and percussion on top of more traditional instruments. The sounds are merged together effortlessly to form a fog of harmony and memory, perfectly melting the themes which Bryars intended his piece to convey in the first place. Really words can't do justice to 'The Sinking of the Titanic', like William Basinski's 'The Disintegration Loops' there is a timelessness, a patience and an ineffable beauty to this music that almost impossible to describe. Unique, flawless and totally essential music.
The Wire (UK):
A full page review by Mark Fisher can be read here (.pdf file)
VITAL (The Netherlands):
In the Netherlands there is these days a lot of talk about 'canon', things you should definitely know from science, history, film or literature. It made me think about a canon for contemporary, post World War Two music. I think you should have certainly lend an ear to 'Gesang Der Junglinge', 'Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul', '433' (well, know what that is about) and on this small and very incomplete list, I should certainly add 'The Sinking Of The Titanic' by Gavin Bryars. The unfortunate biggest boat in the world, running in an iceberg in 1912, while the orchestra down stairs kept on playing. Bryars took that 'orchestra playing' as the starting point for an ensemble piece by taking the piece that was played, as told by survivors, the slow 'Autumn' and Bryars takes it apart, or rather, in free sixties style, let the players decide what to play and also there is voice material on tape, to have the idea of the ship sending S.O.S. signals. This piece has an open length and has been, as far as I know, been released twice. First on LP in Eno's Obscure Records series in the seventies and in the nineties on CD by Crepuscule, if I not mistaken. Here is a version recorded last year with Bryars on double bass, Philip Jeck on turntables and an Italian ensemble called Alter Ego. It's a bit wrong to compare all three versions I think. For the occasion I dug out both and the first one comes rather quickly to the point, with 'Autumn' coming in quite fast and so did the voices. The first CD version is more spun out and has a dramatic built up, and nice choir like sounds. The new version here starts out and ends with a long 'solo' by Jeck, and otherwise seems to follow the original setting. Half way through there is a chirping insect like sound, of which I have no idea who produces this (Jeck perhaps?), but in all the cases that I heard this I couldn't help laughing. The Titanic crushed into a iceberg in april 1912, surely not really a place for insects. Maybe a wrong record chosen? It however makes also clear that this is a live recording and mistakes happen - not a failure of gigantic proportions but just something that causes a minor ripple on the waves. I am not sure if one should 'have' this, unless it's your first experience of the work (then it's a must have), since it doesn't seem to be adding that much to the two previous versions, but for those who want to spot the differences it's surely a welcome work. It definitely something you should hear once in your life. (FdW)
Venerable British composer’s hymnal opus gets a delicate twenty-first century upgrade.
Composed in 1969 and first recorded for Brian Eno’s Obscure label, The Sinking Of The Titanic was inspired by reports from one Harold Bride, Titanic’s surviving wireless operator, who recalled the ship’s string ensemble continuing to play the Episcopal hymn Autumn even as the 'unsinkable' vessel slipped beneath the Atlantic waves. Originally scored for orchestra and tapes, Gavin Bryars’ exquisite threnody has been performed in innumerable subsequent configurations but rarely with such atmospheric potency as on this lavishly packaged Touch release. Recorded live at Venice’s Teatro Maliban in 2005, it finds Philip Jeck’s turntable electronics invoking crackling ice, baleful metal, even, perhaps, the very dust of memory, while Italian ensemble Alter Ego’s incarnate strings, woodwind and glass bottle percussion eddy from the depths. The technological improvisations interleave with Bryars’ subtle, fragmentary variations on Autumn which remain the piece’s impossibly emotive centre. [David Sheppard]
Bryars lässt die Musik untergehen, mit allen akustischen Feinheiten, und erforscht, wie das Element Wasser, das Töne wunderbar tragen kann, diesen Tönen die Möglichkeit der ewigen Wiederkehr gibt.
Gavin Bryars gehört seit Jahrzehnten zu den großen Komponisten der zeitgenössischen Musik - und er ist besessen von der größten Schiffshavarie des 20. Jahrhunderts. “The Sinking Of The Titanic" war das erste Werk Bryars', das über enge Zirkel hinaus bekannt wurde. Es stammt aus dem Jahr 1969 und baut in verschiedenen Schichten auf dem Untergang des Luxusliners auf. Bryars geht dabei aus von der durch Überlebende überlieferten Geschichte der Band, die noch während des Untergangs des Schiffs weiterspielte (selbst als die Titanic schon senkrecht im Wasser stand - da stellten sich die Musiker, wie man heute weiß, auf die Eingangstüren zur Sporthalle), eine Geschichte, die so unglaublich und anrührend ist, dass man schon ein kalter Klotz sein muss, um diese Menschen nicht als wahre Helden zu empfinden - wie vielen anderen mögen sie wohl den Tod angenehmer gemacht, Hoffnung gegeben oder gar das Leben gerettet haben? In den letzten fünf Minuten des Untergangs - so erzählte es jedenfalls der überlebende Funker Harold Bride bei der Ankunft in New York - spielten sie “Autumn", und diese Hymne ist das Herzstück von “The Sinking Of The Titanic". Bryars lässt es anklingen, verstummen, nimmt das Echo wieder auf, wiederholt, dämpft... Zusammenfassend kann man sagen: er lässt den Song untergehen, mit allen akustischen Feinheiten, und erforscht, wie das Element Wasser, das Töne wunderbar tragen kann, diesen Tönen die Möglichkeit der ewigen Wiederkehr gibt.
Der freien Improvisation, wie sie im modernen Jazz Verwendung findet, galt schon immer Bryars' besondere Aufmerksamkeit. In “The Sinking Of The Titanic" steht es den Musikern frei, wie sie die einzelnen Soundangebote, die alle mit der Schiffskatastrophe in Verbindung gebracht werden können, verarbeiten. Daher gab es auch mehrere Versionen, zwischen 15 Minuten und einer Stunde lang. Diese neueste Live-Aufnahme des Stückes dauert eine gute Stunde und wurde im Oktober 2005 in Italien aufgenommen, passenderweise in Venedig, der Stadt des Wassers und der Heimatstadt des Weltumseglers Marco Polo. Einen besseren Rahmen hätte man für die Aufführung nicht finden können. Gavin Bryars spielt den Kontrabass, unterstützt wird er von Experimentalmusiker Philip Jeck an den Turntables und der fünfköpfigen italienischen Formation Alter Ego, die alle anderen Instrumente spielt. Jeck unterlegt den Sound mit einer feinen Staubschicht, die - wie die Geschichte der Titanic selbst - als Metapher für verschiedenste Empfindungen, für Erinnerung, Entfernung und Angst dienen kann. [Tina Manske]
Blow Up (Italy):
France Musique (France):
The Sinking of the Titanic est une ¦uvre majeure de la musique post-minimaliste répétitive du XXème siècle. Composée en 1969 par le contrebassiste et britannique Gavin Bryars elle est une évocation des derniers instants du luxueux (et présumé insubmersible) Titanic et plus particulièrement à la mémoire des des membres du quatuor à cordes de l'équipage qui choisirent, comme le raconte l'histoire, de continuer à jouer alors qu'ils sombraient avec des tonnes de ferraille dans les eaux noirs de l'océan atlantique au cours de cette nuit tragique du 14 avril 1912. Gavin Bryars avait à l'origine conçu cette ¦uvre en lui attribuant une longueur variable qui pouvait aller de 15 à 60 minutes, une pièce dont la lenteur et la répétitivité soulignaient respectivement la gravité et le caractère inéluctable de ces instants funestes. Cette nouvelle interprétation réunit autour de Gavin Bryars à la contrebasse, l'ensemble italien Alter Ego et le platiniste Philip Jeck. Et c'est surtout l'intervention de ce dernier qui apporte une nouvelle dimension à ce classique mainte fois interprété. Philip Jeck dissémine en effet sur l'ensemble une fine couche de craquements électroniques, une sorte de poussière sonore qui accentue l'atmosphère fantomatique de cette ¦uvre et pousse plus loin encore l'irrésistible sentiment de nostalgie et d'élégance que l'on éprouve à son écoute.Ce Sinking of the Titanic a été enregistré le premier octobre 2005 lors de la 49ème édition du festival international de musique contemporaine de Venise. L'alalbum est édité par le label Touch et sera disponible au choix dans une formule de téléchargement au format mp3 sur le site du label mais également sous une forme plus classique en 1 CD très joliment packagé. [Eric Serva]
Gonzo Circus (Belgium):
Wreck This Mess (France):
C'est une œuvre singulière que nous offre, une fois de plus, le label Touch. En effet, cette pièce expérimentale a été écrite par Gavin Bryars en 1969 et a depuis été régulièrement jouée et enregistrée. Celle-ci résulte d'un concert donné en 2006 dans le cadre du festival de musique contemporaine de Venise. Comme son titre l'indique, cette composition s'inspire du naufrage du Titanic et d'un thème, Autumn, joué stoïquement par l'orchestre dans les derniers moments. Un hymne à la fois triste et apaisant qui s'affirme au long de cette longue ambiance grésillante où l'on entend parfois les voix fantomatiques de survivants et des bruits parasites. On reconnaît là, l'apport de Philipp Jeck, platiniste notoire, dont les "boucles étranges" se mêlent aux interventions du collectif Alter Ego qui emploie aussi bien des instruments acoustiques (violon, basse, percussions) que des machines (laptop, magnéto à bande) et des objets (bouteilles). Au final, si l'ose dire, ils nous "immergent" dans une zone-frontière presque hors du temps, où la mort est déjà familière… [LD]
Gavin Bryars hat im Untergang der Titanic einen modernen Mythos erkannt - nicht aber den gängigen vom Größenwahn, der dem Menschen zum Verhängnis wird, sondern einen, der vielleicht viel stärker noch erschüttert: Die fantastische Vorstellung von einer Band, deren Musik beständig fortklingt, sogar nachden der nasse Tod die einzelnen Musiker ereilt hat, ist beispielsweise ein zentrales Motiv der vorliegenden Neuauflage von »The Sinking Of The Titanic« (Touch Music / Cargo), die gemeinsam mit Philip Jeck und dem italienischen Ensemble Alter Ego erarbeitet wurde. Von vorne bis hinten weiß diese Aufnahme in subtil gegliederten, meist leisen Episoden zu bewegen, entwickelt einen erstmals wirklich auffälligen Charakter aber erst dann, wenn im letzten Drittel plötzlich ein auf- und abebbendes Getöse zu hören ist - von dem lässt sich schwerlich sagen, ob es sich nun um Schreie der Furcht oder um einen aufbrausenden Applaus handelt. Der Niedergang erhält dadurch nicht etwa eine sentimental oder anderweitig verklärte Komponente, die die trocken Gebliebenen einer Katastrophe wie dieser doch so gerne andichten. Stattdessen geht das alles ganz wunderbar durch Mark und Bein und weckt im Zuhörer manche Regungen, die sehr wohl etwas mit dem Gehalt der Motive, nicht zwingend aber mit einem sinkenden Schiff zu schaffen haben. Kurz: die Sequenz brennt sich ein - fast wie eine Anweisung, wie man dem gesamten Stück in den folgenden Durchgängen sinnvollerweise begegnen könnte.
Bezahlt macht sich im vor allen Dingen das Engagement von Philip Jeck, dessen verschleiernde Turntable-Kunst der Musik genau das richtige Maß an Undurchsichtigkeit verleiht, um dem Zuhörer ein inspiriertes Schwelgen durch die eigenen Assoziationen zu gestatten: Bilder, Stimmungen und Erinnerungen wachzurufen ist schließlich die markanteste Stärke von »The Sinking Of The Titanic«, so dass das Dargebotene nicht immer selbst das Dramatische evozieren muss, um letztendlich einen großen, tief schürfenden Effekt zu erzielen. Im Gegenteil: Bryars und Anhang nutzen mehr als einmal die ungeheuerliche Kraft der Stille, bleiben der Andeutung streng verhaftet und gewinnen doch gerade dadurch wieder ganz ungemein an Ausdrucksstärke. Hervorzuheben ist an dieser Stelle zudem der erfreuliche Verzicht auf Stilmittel, die allzu sehr »das Düstere« betonen könnten. Die Vieldeutigkeit der Aufnahme bleibt dadurch jederzeit gewahrt, und das - obwohl ganz selbstverständlich vollzogen - ist eine wahre Wohltat. »The Sinking Of The Titanic« wird dadurch zu einer menschenflüchtigen Fantasie, zu einem außerordentlich konsequenten Stück zeitgenössischer Klangkunst. [Kai Ginkel]
La disparition du Titanic
Nouvelle version de The Sinking of the Titanic, chef-d'oeuvre de Gavin Bryars
Gavin BRYARS / Philippe JECK
Près de quarante ans après sa composition, The Sinking of the Titanic, le « tube » du musicien britannique Gavin Bryars, fait aujourd'hui l'objet d'une relecture opérée avec le « platiniste » Philip Jeck, et publiée sur le label Touch : une approche « déconstructionniste » qui soumet cette ¦uvre phare de la « modernité » musicale à un subtil processus de disparition.
1969 fut une année-phare pour Gavin Bryars : avec à son actif un maigre catalogue entamé au terme de plusieurs années de travail dédiées à l'improvisation libre (cf. le trio Joseph Holbrooke qu'il forma avec Derek Bailey et Tony Oxley), le compositeur anglais né en 1943 signe alors une ¦uvre qui reste à ce jour - et à très juste titre - l'une de ses plus fameuses : The Sinking of the Titanic. De toute évidence, cette ¦uvre en work-in-progress frappe en premier lieu en ce qu'elle s'inscrit dans deux paradigmes forts du courant anglo-saxon appelé experimental music : d'une part une certaine propension à l'ouverture dans l'écriture même (effectif musical indéterminé, seulement « suggéré », durée totale libre), d'autre part une esthétique de la récupération héritée du ready-made duchampien, influence très explicitement revendiquée par le compositeur. En guise d'objet trouvé apparaît ici une citation de l'hymne baptisé Autumn, thème qui passe pour être la dernière musique que l'orchestre du Titanic a jouée au moment du naufrage.
Indépendamment de la pertinence historique de ce choix - plusieurs rescapés ont pu identifier comme dernière musique le chant Nearer my god to thee, particulièrement de circonstance, d'autres témoins quant à eux ont assuré que les musiciens avaient cessé de jouer depuis bien longtemps - ce qui fascine Bryars dans cette célèbre anecdote tient dans l'image d'une musique littéralement engloutie, dont on ne peut, dans une certaine mesure, s'empêcher de croire à la persistance infinie à même l'élément aquatique. Dans toutes ses versions, The Sinking of the Titanic figure un tel mouvement d'ensevelissement graduel : l'hymne, joué par un ensemble de cordes graves, se trouve peu à peu mis en canon avec lui-même, sous une forme ralentie et assourdie qui ne manque pas d'évoquer la lente et irrémédiable submersion du vaisseau réputé insubmersible. De la même façon que sa s¦ur cadette Jesus Blood Never Failed me Yet, composée deux ans plus tard, The Sinking of the Titanic marque ainsi très nettement la singularité de Bryars dans le champ de l'experimental music : un certain cocktail inédit de pop art et de pathos hollywoodien, dont la teneur émotionnelle parvient assurément à triompher des esprits les plus durs à cuire.
En 1975, Brian Eno fait paraître comme première référence de son prometteur label Obscure Records un LP regroupant ces deux compositions dans leurs formes premières. Celles-ci ont depuis lors fait l'objet de plusieurs interprétations plus longues et plus développées, les références restant celles publiées respectivement en 1993 (Jesus BloodŠ) et 1994 (Titanic) par le label de Philip Glass, Point Music. Prolongeant cette lignée, l'excellent label anglais Touch publie aujourd'hui une nouvelle version de The Sinking of the Titanic qui provoque pour le moins une certaine curiosité du simple point de vue du casting : outre le compositeur lui-même (à la contrebasse), on y trouve le turntablist Philip Jeck, grand habitué du label, ainsi que l'ensemble italien Alter Ego. Assez éloignée de la première interprétation, canonique, parue chez Obscure, celle-ci pourrait être qualifiée, prudemment, de « déconstructionniste » au sens où elle semble soucieuse de mettre en avant pour eux-mêmes des éléments qui, dans les versions antérieures, étaient fondus dans le tutti : archives sonores d'interviews avec des rescapés, field recordings divers, boîtes à musiques, scansions de morse jouées sur des percussionsŠ Elle va cependant plus loin en introduisant des éléments proprement insolites : enregistrements de pianos totalement hors tonalité, craquements de vinyles, boucles réalisées à partir de vieux enregistrements, toute une panoplie de sons dont Philip Jeck aura, pour notre plus grand plaisir, habitué nos oreilles depuis quelque temps. Assurément, la démarche peut passer pour une forme assez crue de collage consistant à greffer un univers sonore très typique (celui de Jeck) sur une composition qui, dans son caractère même d'¦uvre ouverte, n'en demande pas moins. En témoigne l'aspect quelque peu erratique de certains moments - les stridences occasionnelles paraissant relever davantage de l'accidentel que du maîtrisé - qui tranchent résolument avec le soin qui caractérisait la version de 1994.
Mais il n'est pas certain que la collaboration entre Jeck et Bryars se fasse au détriment du sens de l'¦uvre même. Celui que l'on tient pour le principal sauveur des rescapés du Titanic pour avoir inventé la télégraphie sans fil, l'Italien Guglielmo Marconi, a également, vers la fin de sa vie, développé une théorie selon laquelle les ondes sonores, une fois générées, ne meurent jamais mais deviennent de moins en moins perceptibles à l'oreille humaine. Il se peut dès lors que l'enfouissement infini de l'hymne Autumn et les bibelots phonographiques de Jeck aient fondamentalement la même chose à dire : que ce qui relève du lointain (spatial, temporel) puisse encore nous apparaître dans le mouvement même de sa disparition - que celle-ci relève d'une détérioration matérielle du support (Jeck) ou bien d'une simple dissipation (Bryars). Un processus qui semble vouloir s'étendre, comme par un effet de mise en abyme, sur l'¦uvre elle-même, devenue un classique de la musique d'avant-garde. Ainsi, la très étonnante et presque interminable introduction de cette version, qui semble vouloir différer indéfiniment l'entrée de l'hymne, ainsi que sa conclusion qui « auratise » le son des boîtes à musique par le filtre d'un enregistreur lo-fi - effet de pathos assez simple, mais qui trouve ici sa pleine efficacité - travaillent l'oeuvre de Bryars dans ses espaces marginaux comme pour en faire l'objet même du procès de disparition. [Pierre Yves MACE]
Der Untergang der Titanic wurde sowohl von Schriftstellern als auch Filmemachern ausgiebigst bearbeitet. Gavin Bryars setzt sich dagegen auf eine ungewöhnliche Weise mit der größten Schiffskatastrophe der Geschichte auseinander.
Als 1912 der als unsinkbar geltende Luxusdampfer Titanic untergeht, wird auf einen Schlag der technologische Fortschrittsglauben einer ganzen Generation zerstört. Die vormalige Technikbegeisterung schlägt nun größtenteils in das Gegenteil um, in Skepsis und Angst. Von den über 2200 Menschen die an Bord der Titanic waren, erreichten nur knapp 700 lebend ihren Bestimmungsort New York.
Die tragischen Umstände, die zu dem Unglück führten und die damit verbundenen menschlichen Einzelschicksale, lassen die Schiffskatastrophe nicht in Vergessenheit geraten. Der Experimentalmusiker Gavin Bryars versteht den Untergang der Titanic als eine Metapher für das übertriebene Vertrauen der Menschheit in Technik und dem Paradox der Moderne, dass eine Krönung der Technologie durch menschliches Versagen sowie einen Eisberg zerstört wird. Für seine musikalische Bearbeitung hat der Komponist und Musiker als exemplarischen Moment die Zeitspanne des knapp dreistündigen Untergangs ausgewählt. Während die Passagiere versuchten, einen der wenigen Plätze in den Rettungsboten zu ergattern, musizierte auf Deck ein Streicherensemble. Ungeachtet der sich abzeichnenden Katastrophe intonierten die Musiker das Stück “Autumn", um eine Panik unter den Passagieren zu vermeiden.
Der selbstaufopfernde Akt der Musiker versinnbildlicht sowohl die Hilflosigkeit gegenüber der Unabwendbarkeit der Katastrophe, als auch den verzweifelten Versuch, eine Form von Normalität zu wahren. Um so eindrücklicher prägte sich bei den Überlebenden die Melodie ein, die sie noch weit über das Meer in den Rettungsbooten hören konnten, bis zum Auseinanderbersten der Titanic. Diese verstörende Ambivalenz der Musik spiegelt sich in Gavin Bryars' Komposition “The Sinking Of The Titanic" wider, die er seit 1969 in verschiedenen Versionen aufgeführt hat.
Die nun erschienene, gleichnamige CD gehört sicherlich zu den interessantesten Aufnahmen. Auf der 49. Internationalen Musikbiennale für Zeitgenössische Musik in Venedig spielte Bryars mit Unterstützung des DJs Philip Jeck und dem italienischen Ensemble für Neue Musik, Alter Ego, eine besonders eindringliche Version ein. Als Einstieg dient das rhythmische Knarzen einer zerkratzten Schallplatte, das vereinzelt von gesprochenen Texten mit O-Tönen Überlebender sowie der “Autumn"-Melodie durchdrungen wird. Bryars gelingt es über die Dauer von über einer Stunde, eine einzigartig unheilvolle Soundatmosphäre zu kreieren, in der die Musik Tod, Hoffnung und Erlösung zugleich symbolisiert.
plan b (UK):
Bad Alchemy (Germany):
The Irish Times (Ireland):
Recorded live at the 2005 Venice Biennale, the newly released third version of Gavin Bryars's seminal 1969 piece is also its finest.
First recorded for Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975 (along with Bryars's other break-out piece, (Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet) [sic], Titanic brought the English jazz musician/ composer to the forefront of contemporary music with its blend of musical and sonic debris (electronic sounds, survivor interviews, hymn fragments), simple melodic lines and murmuring rhythms.
Unlike its more formal 1994 orchestral version, the 2005 version is leaner, longer and more dynamic. Featuring Bryars on double bass, Philip Jeck on turntables and music ensemble Alter Ego on strings, brass, wind and percussion, it achieves, in its aleatoric combination of new musical and sonic elements (digital noize, football match recording, crickets) an astonishing emotional urgency. [Jocelyn Clarke]
His Voice (CZ):
I've been listening to Philip Jeck for some time now and he's been winning me over a little more with each release. 7 might very well be his most accessible (ie least noisy) release, but it's also one of his best-constructed in terms of sepia-tones soundscapes that he's so good.
and from the same magazine:
I've stated it before in reviews that I've written that sometimes I feel that artists simply let noise and filters get the best of their work, ocassionally obscuring the best parts of it. Like his labelmate Christian Fennesz, the releases that I'd heard previously (including the near-excellent Stoke) from Philip Jeck had largely fallen into that category. Although I liked some of what he was doing and certainly respected his tactile craft (working from numerous turntables run through pedals), there were moments in many of his older releases that simply turned me off.
That is very rarely the case with 7, and in addition to easily being his most accessible work to date, I feel that it's also his best. With 7 tracks running nearly 50 minutes, the release exudes a pastoral calm most of the time that is amazingly beautiful. The opening track of "Wholesome" is a perfect example, mixing soft washes of sound with what sounds like filtered chimes before slow, heavier melodies plod in and make their mark like the first footprints through a freshly fallen snow. The track builds ever-so-slightly in intensity by the end, but even the feedback is subdued, and if the middle part of the track is footprints being made, the closing is them being swallowed up by blowing snow again.
"Museum" starts out lovely as well before it is swallowed by overdriven noise, but somehow the woofer-wobbling noise is never too harsh while an almost classical melody rises out of the redlined beast towards the end. "Now You Can Let Go" is one of the least drifting tracks on the disc as it sounds like several different short loops get stuck in an almost glitchy way as slide guitar and maybe even a loop from a musical toy with one another before boat calls sound out and the track slides through even more sections. It's the most frenetic (if you could call it that) track on the release, and a beat even makes its way into the mix towards the close.
Following the gritty looped feedback of "Bush Hum" (the only track on the album that steps over the noise threshold), the former track makes the middle of the album a slight high before the disc again quiets down. The closing track of "Veil" is a 10-minute narcotic knockout punch as it creeps along with a building filtered string loop that plays over a dark drone. It's one of the best things that Jeck has done to date, and in addition to the other tracks on the release, it makes 7 one of the better ambient releases I've heard this year. If you've wondered about Jeck in the past but haven't sought him out, this is the album to find first. With his methodical process, he turns the work of typical turntablists and DJs on its head and creates something unique and often moving at the same time.
2004 best albums:
8 Philip Jeck-7 (Touch)
British musician Philip Jeck's life work is with sounds, and how they may be transformed in random and unexpected ways. For instance, a needle stuck in a record's groove is a source of consternation for most people. Jeck, on the other hand, is eager to let the diamond ride a while because the repeated passage becomes an object for study and transmutation. His artform is an otherworldly sound world of pops, clicks, and crackles, mostly built up from dusty vinyl dug up from junk shops and outdated phonographic equipment no one would cast a second glance at in this day and age. Transcendent and mysterious, 7 is a set of pieces created with a sample keyboard, and a trove of his beloved old vinyl. "Bush Hum" extends the enquiry further by looping the harmonic buzz of an old Bush record player into a polychromatic, shifting swarm. The music is enveloped in a patina of dread and beauty, something that's remarkable considering how immiscible these two qualities normally are. But Jeck plumbs it with masterful verve. "Now You Can Let Go" references the echo of dub, "Museum" blends a brass fanfare with a mordant groan; "Wholesome" is anything but, considering its skeletal, arpeggio-tinted construct.
The turntable is an instrument that confounds the easy assignment of the charge of "appropriation". When the turntable - and here Jeck uses a number of obscure turntables, as a means to hear the particular ways of drifting through the grooves of wax afforded by technology - is made the object of attention, subject to modification, preparation, and effect, the ownership of the music in question becomes more fluid. Or at least, in the case of Jeck, beside the point. Hearing the intricacies of the final result is the aim of Jeck's meditative gathering of vinyl, cutting of loops, reassembling of orbital collages and use of effects. On 7, the turntable itself is processed as instrument, with the line hum of a Bush record-player providing the sustenance to the delay pedal of "Bush Hum", clocking Jeck's plunderphonics to the tune of Martin Ng's precise experiments with humnoise. Overall, Jeck differs from Ng as much as from Martin Tétrault's wild excursions into strange objects and impulsive improve, and Janek Schaeffer's custom turntables and self-pressed vinyl, through the primarily unaltered performance on the wax itself, save for the loops, simple mixes, and mild effects. This is Jeck's greatest attribute as a sonic impressionist, an honest ear into the othersounds, and yet for some, the binds of his art. Jeck's gentle demeanour is evident in the movement of his hands - on every Jeck release, there occurs the drop-out, the cut, the fade, the warble, the pitch-shift, the effect change, all performed with the hand. With "Bush Hum", Jeck pinholes into areas that call for further, subtler exploration in a way only Jeck can do - with a cinematic drift, a rough and gritty nostalgia, a dirty wax of ages that renders "ambient" simply too atmospheric, missing all the dust and detritus of spin. [Toby C. van Deen]
Philip Jeck creates hisbetamusic (singapore):
2005 best albums:
8 Philip Jeck-7 (Touch)
British musician Philip Jeck's life work is with sounds, and how they may be transformed in random and unexpected ways. For instance, a needle stuck in a record's groove is a source of consternation for most people. Jeck, on the other hand, is eager to let the diamond ride a while because the repeated passage becomes an object for study and transmutation. His artform is an otherworldly sound world of pops, clicks, and crackles, mostly built up from dusty vinyl dug up from junk shops and outdated phonographic equipment no one would cast a second glance at in this day and age. Transcendent and mysterious, 7 is a set of pieces created with a sample keyboard, and a trove of his beloved old vinyl. "Bush Hum" extends the enquiry further by looping the harmonic buzz of an old Bush record player into a polychromatic, shifting swarm. The music is enveloped in a patina of dread and beauty, something that's remarkable considering how immiscible these two qualities normally are. But Jeck plumbs it with masterful verve. "Now You Can Let Go" references the echo of dub, "Museum" blends a brass fanfare with a mordant groan; "Wholesome" is anything but, considering its skeletal, arpeggio-tinted construct. music using discarded mid-twentieth century record players and a mostly indistinguishable assortment of bruised, scraped, unclean old records. Utilizing homemade lock-grooves, the speed-control settings on his old turntables, a delay pedal, some sort of Casio sampling keyboard, a mixer, the occasional mini-disc player and a hefty dose of random-factor, Jeck creates a dimly-lit, slow-motion world of grimy orchestral sounds, off-kilter rhythms, and warm analogue crackle. The machines and materials he uses, the process by which he creates, and the resulting music are entirely inseparable from one another. The methods he has devised and honed over the past two decades result in music that is unmistakably his own, and is deeply emotional while also fulfilling the conceptual goal of realizing new musical possibilities in machines and artifacts long left to rot in the backwash of history.
7 is, appropriately, Jeck’s seventh solo album. To anyone familiar with his previous work, in particular 2002’s Stoke, the limitations of his highly personalized idiom will become apparent quickly. For the most part, 7 is not a step forward conceptually - the materials and procedures are pretty firmly in place, and Jeck sounds comfortable and assured within his sound world. What makes 7 more enjoyable than Stoke is the heightened degree of focus and control with which he shapes his compositions. Where the element of chance seemed to be the dominant force on Stoke, the pieces on 7 seem to be based on a loosely predetermined sense of direction. Wobbly loops still arise suddenly, in sharp rhythmic contrast to their surroundings, repeating until their asymmetrical rhythms start to make sense; the lovely crackle and hazy edges of battered vinyl are still central to the overall sound. What is different is the vague song forms that emerge from several of the pieces on 7 - the fuzzy, spacey melancholy of the intact chord progression on “Wholesome,” the short, repeating melody buried beneath static and moans on “Some Pennies,” or the perfectly-timed entry of a bluesy harmonica snarl, echoing its way out of the ancient, lopsided ragtime dub of the album’s highlight, “Now You Can Let Go.”
Two of the pieces on 7 (“Wipe” and “Veil”) are pure ambient drones, very soft and airy. There is a sense of calm and distance here, yet the music does not shed the eeriness that is present throughout nearly all of Jeck’s work. Though the sounds he produces from recordings made by others may reveal only the tiniest traces of their origins, the sadness of forgotten dreams is always present, wafting through the layers of dust and neglect that coat these objects once left for dead.
Only one track, “Bush Hum,” finds Jeck focusing directly on the conceptual framework of his art. Here he forgoes his old records, instead applying his delay pedal and primitive sampler directly to the amplified hum of one of his Bush record players. In so doing he pushes his concept to a certain limit, tapping the very electricity which gives life to his art, finding musical potential in the seemingly most unwanted aspect of his ailing machine. It is a fine statement - this static buzz which once drove man to improve his technology now becomes the focus of a creative effort, something beautiful. As a piece of music, “Bush Hum” is interesting enough, but in its abrasive repetitions, it is far from the highlight of an otherwise strikingly beautiful album. For this reason, it is probably a good thing that Jeck has seemingly settled comfortably into his well-defined method, opting not to push conceptual boundaries but instead to plumb the emotional depths of his craft, to see what unknown feelings and memories lay hibernating in the dustiest corners of our minds. [Jesse Serrins]
With this latest release, turntablist Philip Jeck takes up where he left off with last year's 'Stoke'. And yet, while '7' is still very recognisably Jeckian - slow wavering loops culled from choral, blues and god-knows-what records, crackling viny, oneiric pacing - it also marks a further step forward, as Jeck experiments with new techniques while not wholly abandoning the old. Here he relies far more on work done at home than he did on 'Stoke', where he relied almost exclusively on live edits, which he stitched together in the studio. Many of the pieces here consist of a single specific phrase of a dramatically slowed record, such as on the opening and closing tracks "Wholesome" and "Veil". These pieces contrast with his more thickly layered live work, exemplified by tracks such as "Now You Can Let Go" or "Some Pennies", on which a variety of textures, samples and themes emerge and recede over time. At one time, Jeck departs from his trademark distresssed vinyl, something new for him as far as I know, and uses only the feedback hum of a Bush record player and a delay pedal to create the intense drone throb of "Bush Hum". Though in many respects it's not as a coherent a statement as 'Stoke', this record has stuck in my brain even more insistently. More importantly however, it's a record that points towards new horizons for Jeck himself. [Susanne Bolle]
Seattle Weekly (USA):
THE ONLY REAL silence is the silence of a moment after it's passed, and for the last hundred years or so, there's been a way around that: recording. But you can't record a sound or play it back without altering it irreparably. The machines that do the work refract what they capture and repeat. Joyce knew that, rocking toward and away from the microphone as he read "Anna Livia Plurabelle"; Defever knows that, reconstructing the parameters of the recordings he loves. And it's the main point of Philip Jeck's work. The British artist's music is built around the sound of recordings and their players - not the performances stored on them, but the baseline noises of the material objects themselves. Often, bits of music stick to them, like shreds of meat on a bone. Jeck's new album, 7 (Touch), is a set of pieces made with old record players, vinyl, and a sampling keyboard. "Bush Hum," for instance, has nothing to do with the White House: It's the harmonic buzz of an old Bush record player, cranked up high and looped into a throbbing electric swarm. The album closes with "Veil": a few notes that might once have been from strings or a piano but were definitely from a not-quite-immaculately recorded piece of vinyl, progressively stretched out on the sampler until their digital grain, or analog cracks, comes into sharp focus. Through those uncertainties and gaps, you can hear the blood and breath of recording, the failures of perfect reproduction that are its signs of life.
One of today’s most revered turntablists, who uses and defines the intersection of analogue and digital technologies treats his listenership to a world of variant layered tones. On 7 Jeck has remodeled his talent in a way that defines the essence of what has become refreshing in sound today. By offering long, harmonic passages that are both mysterious and somewhat uncharted he has permeated hi-fidelity by using an equivalent of found objects (mature German turntables). His records crackle and bend and fade, though for the most part he uses them with such technique that you may confuse him for using sound samples and field recordings, the traditional sound of the classic DJ is virtually absent and this puts Jeck clearly in a category alone. What is produced in this meticulous production builds more like a crossbreed of sounds you might hear from Organum or John Duncan. Jeck is also one of the few active 50-somethings (like Asmus Tietchens) in a field where most of those performing are a few decades younger and strictly using digital means and apparatus. 7 could be one of the surprise discs of the year in its casual way of presenting what might happen if you pummeled through a living room with a locomotive-sized batch of angry Victrolas leashed by a soft spoken man who surpasses the ferocious humor of it all. With the collision of big band era cartoons and lapping Maui rhythms, the beat is plausible enough for further mixing. There are rasping wheels, troubled tubas and lots of make believe making this one of my favorite spins of 2003. [TJ Norris]
'Tis the season for Philip Jeck, it seems! This UK sonic experimentalist is a big fave 'round these parts, so it's been a festive month indeed with the recent release of a live recording (reviewed 2 lists ago) and now this brand new 'studio' album, AND a reissue of Jeck's seminal, long out of print album Surf, reviewed nearby. Hallelujah. Jeck is simply a wizard with the turntables, not in a hip hop DJ sense but as a sound sculptor, making ghostly slow motion looping drones and beats with crackly old vinyl and the phonograph mechanism itself. Listening to his music is to submerge oneself into a mysterious, evocative realm of sound that capitalizes on the claustrophobia of the locked groove, that dwells on the dusty textures of vinyl as if examined by a field recordist, rather than the usual needle, tone-arm, pre-amp, speaker method of sound extraction. 7 is certainly a strong Jeck showing, lacking naught for crackling, glacial drone and ominous background melodies stolen from another time and place. It's really amazing that it's a turntable (or turntables) making possible Jeck's music, which ranges from the very physical sounding action of a track like "Museum" to the simple haunting whoosh of "Wipe". Track four, "Bush Hum" deserves special mention as it's constructed soley from the "amplified hum of a Bush record-player and delay-pedal". With those tools - no records - Jeck creates a totally electronic sounding track of buzzing rapid rhythmic noise, loud, grinding like a swarm of robot insects. The very next track, "Now You Can Let Go" takes the opposite approach, where there are indeed LPs on Jeck's turntables, and you can actually catch traces of actual music being "sampled". Squawks of big band jazz, a bluesy lick, warped exotica - but usually nothing really recognizable. It's almost like modern electronic dance music at moments, but worshipping the skipping LP not the digital glitch. But it's really Jeck's compositions with even less overt 'musical' content that we prefer, and 7's final track "Veil" delivers on that score with ten minutes of wonderfully droned-out sombre beauty, with no skips or scratches to interrupt its windswept trance... Of course, recommended!
The Wire (UK):
Philip Jeck may have been inspired to take up the turntable by Grandmaster Flash, but the origins of the sounds on 7 - his seventh album, running to seven tracks - would stump even the most dedicated sample magpie. A figure from a hi-fi enthusuast's worst nightmare, Jeck scours junk shops for old record players, on which he plays vinyl straight from the 10p box, looping and mixing it at variable speeds - the more dusty and scratched, the better. Perhaps coloured by the neglected and unloved status of his material and equipment, much of 7 is overcast by a sense of foreboding. It all starts innocently enough, with 'Wholesome', where tumbling arpeggios evoke the optimism of sunrise - imagine the dawn scene in a nature documentary. Yet its crackly patina of nostalgia gives way to a distant melody that evokes a sense of unsettling and change. 'Museum' suggests similar images of loss, as a brass fanfare wavers and stutters befoire beig replaced by a desolate beat, half muffled funereal drum, half mournful groan. Even at its most minimal, Jeck is still inventive. Featuring no records at all, 'Bush Hum' is worked up from a hum of a Bush record playerand a delay pedal. Switching between the the octaves on one note is nothing new; however he creates a sense of urgency and menace, buzzing the rhythm between the speakers with even more complex variations. In contrast, 'Now You Can Let Go' takes the familiar - the retreating echo and stabbing horns of dub music - and distorts still further, increasing dub's sense of elastic time and creeping paranoia. Or at least they nsound like they were once dub records: one of 7's many joys is how its musical sources are so unrecognisable that they open up each track to the listener's own bank of songs, images or memories. [Abi Bliss]
In an age when most music meddles around in an ostentatious swagger, it's good to know that there are artists like Philip Jeck out there. Rather than worrying about flashy apparel and explosive, catchy choruses, Jeck worries about subtle dynamics and disparate textures. His approach is subtle but direct, repetitive but interesting, mainly executed by an assortment of record-players, a minidisc player, and a Casio keyboard. On 7, Jeck continues this bold quest of avant-garde turntabalism, creating a multi-faceted affair that is both dynamic and restrained. Of course, comparing Jeck's music to braggadocios rock is trivial; what really matters is its comparison to previous efforts. Perhaps most noticeably different from 2002's more well known Stoke is that 7, which was created by editing home and concert recordings, is a bit more accessible and catchy. It's no pop album, to be sure, but it does have a quality that enables listeners to immediately identify the tracks. Ranging from abrasive electronics ("Bush Hum") and Lynch-esque droning ("Some Pennies") to eerie contrapuntal crackles ("Museum") and eight-minute ruminations on static and manipulated guitar ("Wholesome"), Jeck massages every possibility out of his musical tools. The album is even more stimulating when he appropriates and recontextualizes melodic lost sounds (i.e. old records) by either juxtaposing or superimposing them with his created sounds ("Now You Can't Let Go").
In the end, however, it is Jeck's deft approach and execution which makes this album so successful. The years he spent practicing his art saran-wraps every note, and not a moment goes by when his acute compositional skills are questioned. Naysayers may argue that Jeck's 7 veers toward accessibility to appeal to the hipsters, but my ears tell me that 7 is a sonic documentation of an artist who has honed his craft. Although Host (released around the same time) is decidedly more experimental and daring, that doesn't mean that 7 has an underlying intent of streamlining for the trucked-capped.
With each new album he puts out, British experimental turntablist Philip Jeck seems to be progressing closer and closer to his own warped conception of a kind of vinyl heaven: a place, perhaps, where forgotten records slowly dissolve into space, leaving only a vapor trail of their music hovering in the atmosphere. It’s there, to be sure, in the ghostly chorale of “Wipe” from his new album 7, which contrary to the title is his sixth solo disc, and fourth for the Touch label. The ghostly choir humming wordlessly seems to be soaring, reaching, desperately, sadly grasping for something, but what that something is can never be named without words; the choir has been made ineloquent, but the emotion of their vocalizing seems to gain an unearthly power and beauty even as it loses its specificity. As with the looped soul singer on “Pax” from last year’s Stoke, the loss of context—placing the disembodied human voice in a sea of vinyl crackles and shimmering noise—produces a profound sadness and tugs without melodrama at the heartstrings.
7, like all of Jeck’s albums, is dominated by this melancholy mood. He has increasingly focused his pieces—especially the shorter ones as featured on Stoke and this album—on a minimum of sources and ideas, developing and stretching each sonic shard into its own miniaturized world. “Some Pennies” revisits a wavering guitar loop that first appeared on theVinyl Codas, but relocated in a new context, amid a burbling mess of watery surface noise and distant percussive clattering. Even Jeck’s own work is not safe from re-contextualization; he has frequently explored the same sounds multiple times on different works, each time granting a new emotional tenor to the sounds due to their new surroundings. Here, his music has a newfound urgency and forward drive that was virtually unknown in the locked-groove meditations of his previous work.
Just as the end of “Some Pennies” submerges into an unexpected stew of gargling, harsh noise before sputtering out, “Bush Hum” uncharacteristically abandons records altogether, focusing instead on the amplified hum of the record player itself, manipulated with a guitar effects pedal. It’s a move that’s already been taken by turntablists prior to Jeck—most notably Martin Tetreault, who now focuses exclusively on improvising with whatever sounds he can wring from a bare turntable—but Jeck’s experiment yields some interesting and surprising results. “Bush Hum” has an entirely different character and mood from the rest of the album, comprised as it is of propulsive, guitar-like riffs of whirring feedback. Here, this track stands out too conspicuously and disrupts the album’s otherwise solid flow, but it nevertheless results a fascinating departure that Jeck could potentially incorporate into his future work.
Interestingly, “Bush Hum” is immediately followed by another uncharacteristic piece, “Now You Can Let Go.” With a greater emphasis on rhythm - of a conventional kind, as opposed to Jeck’s usual preoccupation with the inherent looping rhythm of a spinning record - and more recognizable sound sources, Jeck has created one of his oddest, most memorable, and most fun pieces yet. Bits of funky horns, cut-up and looped, disrupt the solemnity, and a homey harmonica solo unexpectedly cuts in, even as drums pile up in jittery drum-n-bass spasms.
The rest of the album expands upon the subtle grace of Stoke with small gestures and gorgeous melodies obscured by crackling static. The opener “Wholesome” is a layered exploration of arctic freeze, and the closer “Veil” provides its even more tranquil counterpart, an extended ambient wash that bears passing resemblance to the recent work of Touch labelmate Biosphere. If these tracks don’t expand Jeck’s palette quite as much as “Bush Hum” and “Now You Can Let Go,” there is still plenty of evidence here that Jeck is indeed moving forward. His music is more refined than ever, his engagement with his vinyl much more visceral and profound, resulting in an album that is more affecting than ever, but also more varied than any of his earlier releases. [Ed Howard, January 2004]
Pitchfork Media (USA):
The inside cover of Philip Jeck's seventh solo album (typically great Jon Wozencroft design) contains a nice quote from critic Mort Goode: "Johnny Mathis advances the art of remembering." I don't hear Mathis on 7 (though he could be here somewhere-- with Jeck you never know) but I imagine these words appear because The Art of Remembering would be a great title for a Philip Jeck album. For most of the 20th Century, the phonograph record was the primary time-based storage medium. You could buy pre-made 8mm and 16mm reels, but home films never had the market penetration of recorded sound. Music, speeches, plays, sound effects, sporting events, even film storylines were preserved and sold on records. The vinyl record was one of the primary devices for storing culture's collective memory. Hundreds of millions of these fragments were strewn all around the world. What happened to all these chunks of data? Most decayed or were rendered obsolete and were tossed out, but plenty are still in circulation, and a good number of them wound up in Philip Jeck's record collection. Jeck makes music by playing, mixing and processing vinyl records (mostly obscure ones), and on 7, he reflects our memories back to us in a profound and terribly exciting way. Here, Jeck is at the peak of his creative powers. The first track "Wholesome" shows how damn pretty Jeck can sound when so inclined. You expect pieces built from old manipulated vinyl and loops to be prickly with a disturbing undercurrent, but "Wholesome", which isolates, stretches and repeats a Disneyfied swirl of night sky strings and impressionistic piano plinks, is like a flower in perpetual bloom. It gets distorted and blacker toward the end when Jeck rolls off the treble completely, but that's just the sun setting and, like e.e. cummings said, if it has to happen, this is a beautiful way. "Wipe" is just as lovely with a different feel, distant and lonely instead of warm and welcoming. It reminds me of Experimental Audio Research circa "Tribute to John Cage in C*A*G*E", music for drifting slow through space, a cold drone echoing in an asteroid's cave. "Now You Can Let Go" is where Jeck robs the memory bank for identifiable fragments. He turns crackly loops of locomotive chugs into percussion, pushes corny three-note jazz phrases nicked from a Steamboat Willie short into a dub chamber, and keeps a recording of a lathe humming along to bind it all into a singular sound machine. "Some Pennies" is doubly referential, as the ghostly bass ostinato looping through was also the central element of (the even more powerful) "Vinyl Coda I", recorded in 1999. It's an ominous piece of music, but somehow never threatens; despite its bleak overtone, "Some Pennies" is subtle and invites intimate observation. You want to inch closer and pick the piece apart, each layer of sound folded inside, a world within a world. I like to think of "Bush Hum" as a reference to our president and the violence that's accompanied his term in office, though the sleeve notes indicate that the sole sound source for the track is the ungrounded hum of a Bush turntable run through a delay pedal. Still, the abrasive, atonal buzz generated by Jeck's processed electrical circuit could stand in for the sounds of war. An atypical track for a man whose music always incorporates the friction of the physical, "Bush Hum" is nonetheless very effective. Closing the album is the 10-minute veil, a slowly evolving rumble of Wagnerian strings, the symphonic loops of Zauberberg Gas without the kickdrum. How did Johnny Mathis say it in 1957? Oh yeah, "Wonderful! Wonderful!" [Mark Richardson, January 13th, 2004]
Aquarius - record of the week (USA):
'Tis the season for Philip Jeck, it seems! This UK sonic experimentalist is a big fave 'round these parts, so it's been a festive month indeed with the recent release of a live recording (reviewed 2 lists ago) and now this brand new 'studio' album, AND a reissue of Jeck's seminal, long out of print album Surf, reviewed nearby. Hallelujah. Jeck is simply a wizard with the turntables, not in a hip hop DJ sense but as a sound sculptor, making ghostly slow motion looping drones and beats with crackly old vinyl and the phonograph mechanism itself. Listening to his music is to submerge oneself into a mysterious, evocative realm of sound that capitalizes on the claustrophobia of the locked groove, that dwells on the dusty textures of vinyl as if examined by a field recordist, rather than the usual needle, tone-arm, pre-amp, speaker method of sound extraction. 7 is certainly a strong Jeck showing, lacking naught for crackling, glacial drone and ominous background melodies stolen from another time and place. It's really amazing that it's a turntable (or turntables) making possible Jeck's music, which ranges from the very physical sounding action of a track like "Museum" to the simple haunting whoosh of "Wipe". Track four, "Bush Hum" deserves special mention as it's constructed soley from the "amplified hum of a Bush record-player and delay-pedal". With those tools -- no records -- Jeck creates a totally electronic sounding track of buzzing rapid rhythmic noise, loud, grinding like a swarm of robot insects. The very next track, "Now You Can Let Go" takes the opposite approach, where there are indeed LPs on Jeck's turntables, and you can actually catch traces of actual music being "sampled". Squawks of big band jazz, a bluesy lick, warped exotica -- but usually nothing really recognizable. It's almost like modern electronic dance music at moments, but worshipping the skipping LP not the digital glitch. But it's really Jeck's compositions with even less overt 'musical' content that we prefer, and 7's final track "Veil" delivers on that score with ten minutes of wonderfully droned-out sombre beauty, with no skips or scratches to interrupt its windswept trance... Of course, recommended! [Billy Kiely]
Philip Jeck is not your typical turntablist. Like his sometime collaborators Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, and Martin Tétreault, Jeck attends not to beats, breaks, and scratching but rather to the massing of sound, looping and layering scratchy old vinyl until it settles into a kind of rich humus of hiss - fertile soil for the flowering of unexpected melodic shoots. Using vintage Dansette players, a rudimentary Casio sampler, and effects, Jeck isolates tiny fragments of songs - often slowed down to 16 RPM, they're rendered utterly unidentifiable - and assembles them into dense, shifting structures as inviting as Op Art's moiré patterns. His seventh (not including numerous collaborations) solo LP, 7 - like all of Jeck's work - is nominally ambient, in that it opens up sprawling, immersive worlds best explored blindfolded. Individual moments blur and dissipate, and you're left with the sense of having inhabited a vast, harmonic field where all possibilities co-exist at once. [PS]
Bad Alchemy (Germany):
PHILIP JECK hat sich, ähnlich wie Christian Marclay, als bildender und Konzept-Künstler in die >Broken Music< hineingetastet. Das hatte bisher zu meist sublimen, radiophonen, mit E-Rand versehenen Artefakten geführt. Bei "Host" (SR 194), vier neuen Stücken für Sub Rosa, das belgische Label mit seinen offenen Ohren für >Mythologies of Noise, Destructed Sound, and Electronic Music<, jedoch sind Jecks Vinyl-Loops so lärmig und opulent wie selten zuvor. Die meist auf Flohmärkten und im Ramsch herausgepickten Scheiben rotieren auf alten Plattentellern mit all der Patina und dem Staub, der sich in den Jahren angesammelt hat. Jeck benutzt gern 'Records without a cover'. Was zählt, ist der Materialaspekt und der Dreheffekt, die Schichtungen, Überlagerungen, Verdichtungen und Verzerrungen der musikalischen Fetzen. Die dumpfen, kratzigen Echokaskaden von fragmentierten, komprimierten Orchesterstimmen lässt Jeck diesmal bis zum kakophonen Krescendo aufwallen. Statt High Fidelity und musikalischer Andacht herrscht die direkte Faszination durch die Magie der Klangspurenlese, die schon Milan Knizak gepackt hat. Wie aus den Fingerabdrücken der Recording Angels in schwarzem Plastik wieder His Master Voice erschallt und uns späte Ohrenzeugen mit archaischem, stampfendem Ritualgetrommel und Geisterchorstimmen im gyromantischen Wirbel überrollt, das zelebriert Jeck mit einer Intensität, als ob er mit seinen audioklastischen Mixadelics in den Partykellern von London und Brüssel einen neuen Voodookult schüren wollte. Gedämpfer ging Philip Jeck dann bei 7 (Touch, TO:57) zu Werk. In staubigen Rillen konservierte Vergangenheit ballt und verdichtet sich zu loopenden, eiernden Spiralnebeln einer Kunst der Erinnerung. Sieben Wendeltreppen führen hinab in von Patina überkrustete Archive, Lagerstätten abgestorbener Gefühle, die zu nebulösen Clustern eingedickt sind. 'Veil' nannte Jeck eine seiner Zeitreisen, 'Museum' eine weitere, ein verstottertes Zurücktasten entlang der Brailleschrift von Vinylscheiben mit Orchesterklängen, von denen nur noch runzlige Falten zu ertasten sind. Die aufgesuchten, wieder erweckten Tonwelten sind wie verschleiert von Jahresringen des Vergessens. Aber einmal erweckt und in Rotation versetzt, beginnt so ein Brummkreisel lärmig und wirbelnd den Raum zu besetzen und seinen Leck geschlagenen Speicher zu leeren, mit verstolperten Sprüngen und hakenden locked Grooves. 'Now you can let go' hält dieses Rauslassen im Titel fest und spielt dabei gleichzeitig auf ein psychologisches Loslassen an. Der Abschied, der erst möglich wird nach der Wiederbegegnung mit dem Verdrängten.
The Sound Projector (UK):
What price your Englishness, o listener dwelling in this sceptred isle? Learn the answer on this, another essential Jeck release, this time with added electronic assistance from effects-collaborator Jacob Kirkegaard. Recorded live at a music festival, this is a short work which delivers strong emotional content inside a condensed package - along with the usual breathtaking eeriness that Jeck has made all his own, working exclusively with his collections of old records and barely-functioning turntables. His previous released works - all grand statements, which I recommend - have tended to allow layers of sound to accumulate through the natural process of setting several turntables to spin simultaneously. This new release, though, is more stripped down, intensely focussed on certain particular goals, and creates an effective multi-levelled scenario with only a few elements. The sparing use of echo and other electronic affects, added with tremendous sympathy by Kirkegaard, contribute enormously. I'd guess these men are two well-matched players - taciturn, lean, saying no more than needed. My perception is that Soaked depicts a vague theme - and offers glimpses of this in flickering, faded sonic images. A sad rainy day in England. Children and an old dark schoolhouse. A sad child's prayer and a song, rendered here with extreme poignancy by a wobbly old record, the voice of its devotional owner so attenuated and wretched it evokes a wealth of complex emotions. A clunking rhythm of a stuck record which evolves into a train ride through a dreary landscape. The atmosphere is muffled, wet and miserable. A Victorian music box (ref track 4) sings from the past.
Nostalgia and faded hopes haunt all the lost souls in this world, their only voice a plaintive squeak and a sigh. Soaked could only be an English recording, a hymn to the Everyman
English citizens, generations who have endured 1000 years of wet weather, to the point where bad weather has seeped into our collective bones and interminably dampened our spirits and dashed our hopes. You can smell the wet raincoats, the umbrellas, the wet dogs. I gather Jeck is not a critical artist who hates the inanities of the modern world, but rather a man who is profoundly saddened by it all - the ignorance and the poverty of spirit that has doomed the English for generations. The muffled and indistinct sounds of this record match our emotionally stunted, pinched and repressed nature...Soaked can hold up a true mirror to this segment of our psyche. After 5 or 6 segments of moping around with a gloomy expression, Soaked becomes heavier and quite pro-active towards the end - a robotic war machine clattering along a metal tunnel and knocking holes in brick walls, throwing off sparks and danger. But this is but an episode - a man may resolve to throw off the melancholy of wet and gloomy England, but his courage soon fails, and in his final moments he trundles away to an inconclusive ending, with perhaps a church bell sounding in the distance. [Ed Pinsent]
Dusted Magazine (USA):
Drenched in Sound
Although many cite him as an experimental turntablist, over the course of a few great solo records Philip Jeck has built a beautiful world out of record players, and not just the beats they can create. His two most recent records, 1999s Surf and Stoke from earlier this year, nicely display his ability to weave complex patterns of sound, using vinyl to manipulate memories or older images, not rhythms. He's also quite accomplished in the realm of performance art (with his Vinyl Requiem piece) and radio, with Vinyl Codas I - IV.
Soaked emerges as a document of Jeck's performance with Jacob Kirkegaard, a noted Danish sound artist. The seven tracks here were documented during the Moers Jazz festival in Germany during this past May and display a wide variety of more ambient textures. The two artists' natural tendencies often overlap and dovetail nicely, so much so, that at times it sounds like the work of one intensely focused mind.
The first track sets the tone for many of themes visited on this set. Jeck uses his record layers wisely, coaxing longing, graceful sounds out of weathered vinyl. His locked grooves subtly shift the flow of the piece back and forth. Kirkegaard's electronics are delicately restrained, nicely punctuating the track's natural rhythm - a bit of a careful melody, with occasional bursts of low-end clattering in the background. The second track begins with a tired recording of a prayer recitation, a lullaby that gradually sneaks its way into song. These sounds are taken and looped and twisted, placed against Kirkegaard's electronic tinkering. Its effects are nothing short of haunting as the song shifts from voices in the crowd to the wild with ominous chirps and whirs placed into the background of the third track. A growing clatter builds amidst loops that grow more urgent and eerie as the track passes. The fourth track gives way to crackling and static from ancient discs, while the looped, plinking melody suggests something entirely different. As things shift even further, sounds emerge from forgotten satellites and are placed against growing washes of sound. Kirkegaard adds the finishing touches, dropping sine wave rhythms in and out amidst his clanking sound effects. The track ends with the sound of bowed cymbals that gradually fade.
As these collapse into themselves and the background, drones, skipping somewhere underneath the surface, emerge as Jeck's loops enter ambient brilliance. Touches of an Eastern melody emerge in place of the drones and a plundered vocal is gradually incorporated, only to be overcome by the low end throbs and urgent clatter that introduce the sixth track. Percussive elements struggle and kick in the background while the hums and whirs build in intensity before giving way to chaos. The frenzy calms itself as the percussion fades out and the gentle loops of gorgeous forgotten melodies wash over the beginning of the seventh and final track on the record. A shorter piece, this track relies upon another gradual build in sound, all before quickly giving way to the coming silence.
And then, as quickly as it began, it's over. The one thing that makes this collaboration work well is the two players' ability to complement each others styles so well. While Jeck favors weathered images built gradually within his records, Kirkegaard uses his sometimes jarring, sometimes soothing electronics in a variety of complementary ways. This disc doesn't fill me with the same sense of awe that some of Jeck's other work does, but it's an inspired addition to his discography, one that will appeal to fans and casual listeners alike. Which is not to say that it's all Jeck's show. Kirkegaard does a fine job establishing his role at times throughout the whole of the set, leaving his fingerprints firmly embedded on Soaked.. [Michael Crumsho]
Bad Alchemy (Germany):
Ein Generationen bergreifendes Meeting von Turntables und Electronics, live am 20.05.2002 im Electronic Lounge auf dem Moers Festival. Vinylist Jeck, Jahrgang 1952 und in Liverpool zuhause, ist kein dezidierter Einzelgnger, das zeigte schon sein "Viny'l'isten"-Projekt mit dem Vinyl + Blech / Six And More-Knstler Claus van Bebber. Hier ist nun der Dne Kierkegaard, 1975 geboren, Student an der Klner Akademie fr Medienkunst und Mitglied der Aerter-Combo, sein Improvisationspartner, der Jeck's typischen Vinyl-Coda-Loops geruschhaft umsirrt und interpunktiert. Zusammen weben sie einen ambienten Musique-concrte-Vorhang aus Knistern, Knarzen und Glckchenklingklang, eine virtuelle environ-mentale Hlle voller synthetischer 'Tierstimmen' und Dreamscape-Singsang. Jeck, den ich selten so dramatisch gehrt habe, und Kierkegaard paaren das Schne mit dem Unheimlichen. Ritualbeats ziehen die Phantasie in ihren Strudel, der Spannungsaufbau ist unwiderstehlich und 35 Minuten viel zu schnell vorbei.
[A generation-spanning meeting of turntables and electronics, recorded live on May 20th 2002 in the Electronic Lounge at the Moers Festival, Germany. Vinylist Jeck (born 1952), based in Liverpool, is not a solo player only, as shown by his "Viny'l'isten" project with Vinyl + Blech / Six And More - artist Claus van Bebber. Here his improvisation partner is Jacob Kirkegaard (born 1975, Denmark), student at the Academy for Media and Arts Cologne and member of the band Aeter, who whirrs around and interpunctuates Jeck's typical Vinyl-Coda-Loops. Together they weave an ambient Musique-concrete tapestry of hissing, crackle, and bell tingling, a virtual environ-mental soundscape full of synthetic animal voices and dreamscape singsong. Jeck, whom I have rarely heard play so dramatically, and Kierkegaard combine the beautiful with the eerie. Ritual beats pull the imagination into their vortex, the tension buildup is irresistible, and 35 minutes go by much too quickly.]
VITAL (The Netherlands):
Not really hot on th heels of 'Stoke' (we were just late with the review two weeks ago) is an album which Philip Jeck recorded with Jacob Kirkegaard. The later is a member of Aerter, a Danish mixed media group, which I unfortunally never heard of. He plays samplers and electronics and here in combination with Philip Jeck's turntables. The recording was made at the Moers Jazz festival in Germany in May 2002. Their duo improivsation falls apart in seven pieces, combining the rhythmicalities of Jeck's vinyl work and Kirkegaard's samples. I can't help to see this is as a very free form improvisation. Darker ambiences most of the times in which it is easy to search for a form and then building up from there once a bunch of nice sounds is determined, such as in the sixth piece. Good, sturdy improvised electronic music, but also one that doesn't have those great moments. If five stars would be great, I'd give it three stars. (FdW)
There is a new calm in the air. Lilting female voices sway to lullabies while steam seeps and water droplets beat. Soaked sounds very wet. While Jeck mans the turntables, Kirkegaard tames the electronic beast within. Recorded at the Moers Festival in Germany (an international new jazz festival), there are warning signs and other voices assembled here. Over a short thirty-five minute set of seven nameless tracks, we witness a growth cycle. There are several moments of timed/planned vs. improvised/live playing here. The sonic nurturing comes alive in the dance of several gestural movements. It’s like that of a crisp white sheet billowing on a line outdoors, in slow motion in moments and then there is a happenstance in the roulette dramaticism and scary monsters on track six. Out of sync layers of rumbling noises, spinning wildly as it reaches climax and soaks through the undertow reverberation of heavy bass.Bring your towel. [T J Norris]
Recorded during their live performance at the May 2002 electronic offshoot of the Moers Jazz Festival in Germany, "Soaked" brings together the talents of AQ-favorite, avant-turntablist Philip Jeck and the relatively unknown artist Jacob Kirkegaard, who is a member of the Danish multi-media ensemble Aeter. The lumbering drones, tiny textural ornamentations, and radioactive vinyl crackling that we've come to expect from Jeck are certainly present on "Soaked." Yet, Kirkegaard's contributions for electronics, samplers, and possibly some laptop synthesis act as interesting digitized counterpoint to the analogue antiquity normally associated with Jeck. Alongside Jeck's slow-motion fluctionations of old ballroom orchestrations (just a guess, all of his sounds have been blurred well beyond the point of recognition), Kirkegaard interjects non-repeating melodic phrases and digital glitchiness. As this 35 minute composition progresses, both Jeck and Kirkegaard incrementally push towards more jagged and abrasive sounds beyond Jeck's ghostly collages, into rather dissonant elements that sounds like gasping ventilators, clattering bicycle wheels, and straining diesel motors. A bit of a detour for Jeck, but nevertheless a very worthwhile experiment!
All Music Guide (USA):
This collaboration between sound artist Philip Jeck and electronician Jacob Kirkegaard was recorded live at the Moers Festival (Germany) in May 2002. A short set of 35 minutes released hot on the heels of Jeck’s solo CD Stoke, Soaked accomplishes little more. Jeck’s sound universe is peculiar and characteristic. His antiquated turntables spin voices from the past. Their careful juxtaposition create eery interplays. It is a question of balance between the aleatory evocations of a cadavre exquis and pure sound art. Kierkegaard’s electronics disrupt this balance. After a very soft introduction where a turntable spins an hymn under layers of digital electronics, things escalate. Kirkegaard’s CD skipping emulates Jeck’s techniques, his laptop wizardry tries to frame the less reliable behavior of an army of old turntables. The music reaches a peak in the sixth of seven indexes, almost too loud for what preceded it, and then retracts like the waters at ebb tide for a short catharsis. Soaked is a good piece of improvised sound art and the two protagonists clearly make an effort to listen to each other and make their contributions meet, but in the end it remains an average piece, weaker than Stoke or the Vinyl Coda series. [FC]
Hybrid Magazine (USA):
This album is a live performance/collaboration between Philip Jeck and Jacob Kirkegaard at the German Moers Jazz Festival, from May of this year. Kirkegaard, a member of Danish mix media group Aeter, has performed at a number of festivals with the aid of samplers and other electronic gear and is currently studying at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. In addition to his live work, he has been involved in the creation of a massive number of projects including installations and film work that incorporate loops, projections and sound experiments into multimedia works. Philip Jeck is known for salvaging old vinyl and turntables second hand and incorporating into his work with other electronics and analog gear. He began his work in the early 80's, performing solo and with many theatre and dance companies. After working on music projects for a number of years, he ventured back to visual arts via installations and won the Time Out Performance Award in 1993 for a 'Vinyl Requiem' a piece created for 180 record players that he collaborated on with Lol Sargent. It is interesting to witness the merging of ideas between Keck and Kirkegaard as 'Soaked' slowly builds from delicate fragments of old records and samples and then into an intense frantic breakdown before once again returning to a beautiful and personal translation of the original sound sources. This is not a noise record or a performance of recognizable samples but a new approach and transformation of sound created by pre hi-end digital technology and a lot of innovative ideas. Excellent work. [Justin Hardison]
re:mote induction (net):
Just in, the latest release from Touch, a collaboration by Jeck and Kirkegaard. Recorded live in May of this year, Soaked follows quickly after Jeck's third album for the label Stoke. The disc arrived yesterday, but as I arrived home late I only had time to put it in my portable CD player for listening to in the morning. Of course it turns out that the sound level is pretty quiet, as the description on the disc should have warned me. So sitting on a train first thing in the morning is clearly not the best environment for listening to material of this sort - low harmonic swirls that could be described as sheer and reflective drones, mixing with rumbles and crackles, all at a subdued level so that it melds together in complimentary manner.
Of course now that I am sat in a more stable environment I've popped it back in and am giving it a first listen. I enjoy Philip Jeck's work, particularly gaining that appreciation having seen him live at the end of last year - though trying to put into words how his sound works isn't entirely easy. Here the sound of his vinyl manipulations seems to form the base layer of the compositions. While Kirkegaard seems to work more with samplers and sampled sounds, a Danish artist who I am encountering here for the first time. With the title Soaked there is a sense of a water theme, with presumably Kirkegaard providing glubs and trickles of watery sound - clearly resolved sounds against the typical haze of sounds generated by Jeck.
By the second track the volume has increased to a more amenable level for listening. Kirkegaard's presumed input becoming more discernible with buzzes and flares. Being a live recording the CD flows generally from one piece to another without much fanfare about the matter, the shift from 2 to 3 almost unnoticed, the thematic flow continuing while the presence of sound lifts with bass pulses and bird calls mixing with the slight vinyl skips which almost form a rhythm. The entire disc has 7 tracks over the course of about 35 minutes, which strikes me as being a fairly agreeable length for a live set - enough to create impressions, short enough so that the attention span of a live environment doesn't start to wander.
The third track features some more abrupt sounds, clashes and dunts, though they are transitory impressions. With the fourth piece coming out of a moments silence and the more subdued feel of high, whistle edged strokes and emergent crackle. Wobbly, hesitant melody starts to appear for the first time, piano notes with perhaps some wind instrument weaving in through peripheries. Building up the sort of vibrancy that reveals the charm and appeal of this kind of composition.
As the performance continues we can equate different sounds to each of the artists by the nature of the techniques that each uses - the swirls and buzzes or clanks and the like of Kirkegaard are clean and clear, perhaps one could say digital, which come across as direct contrasts to those of Jeck which is perhaps more organic. Though with the likes of track 5 there is a sense of there being a middle ground, listening to the harmonic hums and strokes of notes one can be less certain of who is responsible for what in the layers mixing. The waver of a snake charmers flute wafts through the cloudiness, a looping stroke circling the core of detail. This is looking to be the most promising passage of Soaked so far.
Development sees the 6th part become more rhythmic, beats to chase of the flute, market rhythms contrasted by spindle wheel chatter. With this part the pair get worked up, going through the most agitated and kinetic section. Bringing it back down to swirling layers for the final section. Fading off with birds sounds into more inaudible territory to conclude the performance.
Philip Jeck and Jacob Kirkegaard
Ausland, Berlin, 05.04.2003
One of the most fascinating musical events came by the UK/Danish duo Philip Jeck and Jacob Kirkegaard during an evening Berlin had to offer a lot. These two musicians produced a highly intellectual, refined and subtle evening divided in two parts. The first part, where the audience could sit down, was very ambient with lovely water samples and tingling bells. The music was decent, fine-tuned and caressed minimal changes. The second part after the break, in which a DJ created a completely different atmosphere, was without chairs. The music was harsher, and louder. Unfortunately that last was also true for the audience. This second part started where the first left off, with nice bells that kept changing. An electric tune appears, as a sort of destruction, leaving again as nothing happened. The music gets more robust, heavier and almost industrial. Harsh electronics come and go, in a pattern. The music remains still sophisticated though, and is fully under control. The music creeps in various directions, like water it tries to finds its way to lower grounds. A sort of rhythmic sound of breaking glass has been combined with vibrating electronics with some noise on top of it. More sounds are incooporated, reminding of a distorted choir and the music by Deadbeat. The next episode is dark, like rhythmic organic electronics with sounds of water that intensify, making the music rather tense, grabbing you by the throat like a good thriller. The atmosphere changes after a while, becoming almost holy with bouncing beats interwoven. The last part of the concert reminded of a film score. The music was classical, a piano could be heard in the background, and ends with heavy, slowed-down distorted rhythms that disappear till there is nothing left anymore. Both composers have released material on Touch. Philip Jeck works with old records and record players salvaged from junk shops turning them to his own purposes. The result is very sophisticated and serious, one can hear the art in his material. Jacob Kirkegaard's outputs are full of fragile sounds containing lo-fi noises and distant spaces with a discreet but sensible touch. The cooperation of these talented artists resulted in a fascinating live show. Let's hope this will be released one day. [Paul, Phosphor]
Jeck's Stoke, which I recently - and belatedly - discovered courtesy of Touch's Jon Wozencroft, is another oneiric drift through the archives. Listening to the record - or rather gradually being possessed by it - over the course of the last few weeks has confirmed my initial impression that any serious discussion of sonic hauntology cannot ignore Philip. His sound could be characterized as a dyschronic, disembodied hip hop (a dream hop?) - Jeck 'started using record players in the early eighties after hearing mixers like Walter Gibbons and Larry Levan and Grandmaster Flash' - produced using dansette turntables, FX units and records found in charity shops. (Imagine what you thought middlebrow mediocrities DJs Shadow and Spooky sounded like before you actually heard the records). But Jeck's methodology - he composes his records largely from edits of live performances - makes it equally plausible to describe him as a junk shop counterpart of Teo Macero, the legendary sonic sorcerer who conjured wondrous unlive collages from Miles Davis' studio playing. (It's not at all coincidental that Eno mentioned Macero on the sleeve notes to On Land.) Both the hip hop DJ and the studio remixer are experts in the necromantic art of manipulating sonic unlife: the DJ performs live manipulations of Read Only Memory recordings, whereas the remixer takes a live performance out of the lived duration of so-called real time into the unlive no-time of the studio. Like sonic hauntology in general, Jeck - a steampunk surgeon of sound, a surfer of surface noise - is at the confluence of these two approaches. Stoke is often keeningly plaintive, although there is an impersonal, mechanical quality to the melancholy, almost as if it belongs to the aged machinery and the recovered objects themselves. Philip refers to the sonic sources he uses as 'fragments of memory, triggering associations' but it is crucial that the memories are not necessarily his; the effect is is sometimes like sifting through a box of slides, photographs and postcards from anonymous people, long gone.
In his excellent review of Stoke for Pitchfork, Mark Richardson drew out the virtual-visual dimension of Philip's work (remember that Jon W always insists that Touch is an audio-visual label):
"Listening to his most recent album, Stoke, it's hard not to think about Jeck's background in visual art, and how it informs his audio work. There's something very cinematic about these pieces, though the music sounds nothing like a soundtrack. Some of the visual referencing could come from the regular pops and scrapes in the vinyl, which are reminiscent of the sound of a spool of film being fed into a projector. Jeck's endlessly rotating platters, like the whirr of moving film, serve as a constant reminder of the time-based nature of the medium."
In this technology-happy age, English turntablist Philip Jeck is a bit of an anomaly. After all, electronic musicians are some of the most ravenous consumers, searching for ever faster processing power, whiz-bang features, and higher fidelity in their quest for the state of the art. With his willfully antiquated equipment – Dansette turntables, a couple of basic effects pedals, and a cheap Casio keyboard – Jeck flies in the face of present tech-fetish fashion, constructing his hazily oneiric, undulating music out of a stack of crackling, resolutely imperfect vinyl. “I started using record players in the early eighties after hearing mixers like Walter Gibbons and Larry Levan and Grandmaster Flash,” he wrote via email, when asked to explain the origins of his interest in working with turntables. “I bought a second turntable and a mixer and at first tried copying them.” His present method of working with turntables emerged out of this stint as a hip-hop deejay, playing extended rhythmic breaks at dancehalls and clubs.
Besides Grandmaster Flash and other hip-hop deejays, Jeck’s primary formative influence was Christian Marclay, who, in Jeck’s words “showed how big the possibilities were.” Not that Jeck ever aped Marclay’s distinctive, collagist style. Instead he developed his own, idiosyncratic way of working, making extensive use of longer loops, locked grooves and queasy repetitive elements, techniques that are very different not only from those of Marclay, but also from other experimental turntablists like Japan’s Otomo Yoshihide and Montreal’s Martin Tetreault. While their styles might be quite different, like Marclay, Jeck favors vintage equipment. In his case his player of choice is the Dansette, a most unusual turntable that plays records at four speeds, rather than the typical two or three. His predilection for Dansettes was born while he was still doing dance gigs in the early eighties. “I had some old 78 rpm shellac records I wanted to play,” he says, recalling his introduction to player of choice. “I found an old player in a record shop that played at 78. But when I got it home, I found that it also played at 16. Playing records at that speed is great.” The gradual evolution of his style began with his growing fascination with the possibilities engendered by antiquated equipment like the Dansette, but he also notes another key factor in the emergence of particular style. “I also, throughout the 80s, worked a lot with the dancer Laurie Booth,” he explains, “doing improvised performances all over Europe (and New York). I developed my way of playing through this, using any kind of record that I found, not for any purpose other than finding sound that had an emotional impact on me.”
Beyond this emphasis on repetition and the emotionally evocative, what distinguishes Jeck’s approach from that of other turntablists is the way that he uses popular music in his work. This goes beyond the extended woozy blues excerpts and snippets of half-familiar tunes that he incorporates into his work, which function as much more than cleverly ironic references within a larger, abstract sonic collage. As he explains it, his intention is to generate a feeling similar to that created by a classic pop song. “My inspiration is from all sorts of musics, especially popular music,” he says. “In my head, as I am playing, I search for the same emotional impact as the first exciting records I heard (Elvis, The Beatles, etc.), and then try to expand those moments.”
This emphasis on emotional effect is contingent not simply on the listeners’ recognition of particular recordings that he uses - only a scant few of which are immediately recognizable anyway. His is not an exercise in abstracted nostalgia, though there is certainly an element of such longing. The use of vinyl is itself evocative, especially given the highly distressed state of the records that Jeck uses – to put it mildly, he does not treat his vinyl stock with an audiophile’s care, instead aging his records with a hefty dose of studied neglect, as well as preparing them with tape, glue and a scalpel to create lock grooves. Enveloped in a haze of static-filled crackles and the hurdy-gurdy sound of warped vinyl, the listener seems to experience Jeck’s work as if through the distorted lens of memory. “Each fragment of sound is like a stored memory,” he explains, “triggering associations, sometimes nostalgic, but often not quite clear, but still adding to the overall emotional feel.”
The size of Jeck’s set-up can vary from just two to three players plus effects boxes, samplers and Casio to any number of players (as he puts it, it all depends on the budget). Undoubtedly, Jeck’s most ambitious work to date is 1993’s Vinyl Requiem, a sprawling multimedia piece that employed 180 record players. While a version of the Requiem has yet to make it to record or CD, a number of Jeck’s long-form improvisations have been released, most famously the Vinyl Codas I-IV, which appeared on two separate CDs on Intermedium. In addition to the four Codas, his more recent collaborations with German turntablist Claus Von Bebber (Intermedium) and Danish musician, Jacob Kierkegaard (Touch) provide further glimpses of Jeck’s live performance with their cyclical, slow evolution and queasily hypnotic atmosphere.
His most recent solo release, last year’s magisterial Stoke (Touch), was constructed primarily in the editing room, as Jeck fashions shorter pieces using elements culled from a variety of live performances. The tight control of the studio stands in sharp contrast to the risk that is an essential ingredient in Jeck’s live set-up: “Spontaneity and unpredictability are the things I use to keep me mentally awake and in the moment when I need to be,” he says. “The equipment I use is old and can always go ‘wrong’. A record player can start to play at a different speed or even vari-speed, changing the ‘feel’ of the sound, causing me to react and make sense of the change. It keeps me on my toes!” [Susanna Bolle]
The Sound Projector (UK):
Jeck, Lord of the 'art' turntable, Duke of the Dynaflex and Denizen of the Dansette, hits town with his latest worn vinyl-fest, all 'edits' captured from his international live performances. Seven honey-drenched and richly saturated tracks spread thickly over 53:32 minutes. As always, here be lots of loops, lots of layers, lots of chance events creating fortuitous musical moments, yet Jeck always leaves his fingerprints on every second. Voices and musics are set off in constant circles, yet never quite repeating the same patterns twice over. Distressed surface noise also becomes a part of the overall tableau, and is transformed into sweet music. Ambiguity turns into certainty, as Jeck forces the hand of chance. 'A glimpse of the future through prisms of past records,' is how The Wire describes his work; I like the idea that you can see the future through listening. Perhaps Jeck is a magus, casting the runes, throwing the Tarot or spinning the I Ching, with all the mastery of a mystic adept. The chance shuffles of his vinyl Tarot deck will always reveal a credible configuration of future events...he releases all the untapped energy of a precognitive dream. His loops and repeats will send you into a trance, in which state you will babble in tongues and reveal the secrets of the world beyond. Jeck speaks of 'the combination of a half-remembered noise and the nostalgia of a room..expressing the thoughts that at one time slip into every home.' Like Soaked, this CD is heavy on nostalgic experiences and sad, weepy evocations of loss and tragedy. 'Pax' is a real standout cut here, with its trembling, slowed-down voice moaning against an organ music backdrop, and is probably one of the most affecting things you'll hear, enabling contact with a buried part of your own humanity you had thought was long lost. Then again, 'Below' has a slightly more aggressive edge, a chaotic centre that might result from the tension of doing it live. Oddly, though, it's hard to imagine Jeck's private and intimate work in the arena of a public venue. The recorded results always seem to be beyond mass communications, instead speaking to the listener directly. [Ed Pinsent]
Pitchfork Media (USA):
Liverpudlian Philip Jeck studied visual art at the Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England. During the early 80s, he drifted from painting and sculpture to music, and began working with old and discarded turntables. Though he's roughly a contemporary of Christian Marclay, recognition for Jeck came much later, beginning in 1993 with his massive installation "Vinyl Requiem", which incorporated 180 record players and multiple film projections. Since then, he's released several solo records for Touch and the German label Intermedium, and has collaborated with Otomo Yoshihide, among many others. Much of Jeck's solo output is culled from edits of live performances. Using a number of battered turntables, a Casio keyboard, and a CD player or minidisc, Jeck creates dense, pulsating sound collages from the grooves of ancient and forgotten records. Like Yoshihide and Marclay, Jeck is no DJ. Though he stands over his decks with headphones on, his intention and methods with records has nothing to do with beat-matching or spinning tunes. Records are truly just sound sources for Jeck, raw material to be shaped via mixer and effects into his ghostly compositions. Listening to his most recent album, Stoke, it's hard not to think about Jeck's background in visual art, and how it informs his audio work. There's something very cinematic about these pieces, though the music sounds nothing like a soundtrack. Some of the visual referencing could come from the regular pops and scrapes in the vinyl, which are reminiscent of the sound of a spool of film being fed into a projector. Jeck's endlessly rotating platters, like the whirr of moving film, serve as a constant reminder of the time-based nature of the medium. These pieces happen, and all you can do as a listener is try to extract information before they fade back into nothingness. You have to listen close and listen often.
Stoke finds Jeck more in the realm of focus and refinement. While the tracks in his "Vinyl Coda" series (worth checking out, by the way) ranged from 20 to 60 minutes, the seven distinct pieces here average less than eight. The relatively tight construction of the tracks means that Jeck can hone in on a single sonic idea and amplify it, extracting the maximum amount of emotional material from a few grimy loops. "Pax" is an uncharacteristically minimal piece combining a simple organ refrain and slowed-down vocals, possibly from an old gospel 78. The keyboard is very clean-sounding and might not be sourced from a record, but it perfectly complements the churched-up feel of the warped vocal, stretching the anguish of the indecipherable lyric to its breaking point. "Close" uses ancient recordings of sacred music from another culture to beautiful effect, this time the ringing sounds of Indian classical. The undisciplined hiss of a loose sitar string is clipped to ribbons, then looped and recombined to sound like a warning, some indeterminate alarm sounding through a Himalayan valley. The piece takes a stunning left turn in its final quarter, turning to a loop of surface noise with an echoing and unbearably lonesome vocal floating on top. "Lambing" is Jeck in drone mode, patiently adding and removing layers of sound and noise whose vinyl sources remain a complete mystery. The style on "Lambing" could be considered Jeck's signature, and it's amazing what he accomplishes through additive processes. There's something wonderfully machine-like about the operation. Since Jeck has the entire world of sound at his disposal, he has to figure how much of it to let in at any given moment, like mixing air with fuel inside a carburetor. Stoke proves him a master mechanic. [Mark Richardson]
Compared to the recent release of the collaboration between avantgarde turntablists Philip Jeck, Otomo Yoshihide, and Martin Tetreault, Jeck's solo production receives the superior packaging job -- not only with the normal sized digipack (and not that stupid 'super jewel case') but also with the beautiful design from Touch's Jon Wozencroft. Furthermore, Jeck's album clocks in nearly 20 minutes longer and is two bucks cheaper. OK, so it looks good, but what does it sound like?, you ask. The AQ verdict is -- it sounds wonderful! Philip Jeck's take on turntable experimentation involves using multiple turntables and scratchy old records to create blissfully beautiful surface-noise looping. His largely improvised compositions make the most gorgeous, repetitive, droning use of good old-fashioned record crackle and hiss. Jeck takes great care to allow for scraps of melody to emerge from the original music on the records with snippets of piano, sitar, and slow-motion vocals, popping out of crackled loops and often recalling the height of the Robin Storey era Zoviet France in the late '80s. What differentiates this new album from the previous excellent ones in his ouevre is its dynamics (perhaps due to the fact that these were all live performances?) -- the music is more active in terms of the elements used and their resulting emotional power. In fact, the first track "Above" is the creepiest composition I've ever heard from Jeck. The dynamism is also evident in that he uses more individual sounds that unfold over time but *not* necessarily being looped. It's nice to hear him trusting the sounds to stand on their own rather than needing the looping effect to make them beautiful. Highly recommended!!
The Wire [UK]:
With its acrobatic athleticism and penchant for charming gimmicks, in all likelihood HipHop will indefinitely dominate the field of turntablism. Even record-spinning abstractionists like Christian Marclay and Martin Tetrault, who may not always share HipHop's necessity for the beat, put on flashy demonstrations that engage the machismo of technique, alongside their critically minded recombinations of cultural readymades. While Philip Jeck's performances, installations, and recordings have centred around his arsenal of turntables (at last count, he was up to 180 antique Dansette record players, though more normally he performs on two or three, and a minidisc recorder), he isn't terribly interested in the contemporary discourse of turntablism, preferring to coax a haunted impressionism with those tools. However as a calculating improvisor, he shares affinities with the turntable community. Once he is in control of the overall context of the music, he leaves much to the spontaneous reaction towards sound at any given moment.
A typical Jeck composition moves at an incredibly lethargic pace through a series of looped drone tracks caught in the infinities of multiple locked grooves. As he prefers to use old records on his antique turntables, the inevitable surface noise crackles into gossamer rhythms of pulsating hiss. Occasionally, Jeck intercedes in his ghostly bricolage with a slowly rotated foreground element - a disembodied voice, a melody, or simply a fragment of non-specific sound - which spirals out of focus through a warm bath of delay. For almost ten years now, Jeck has been developing this methodology, building up to Stoke, his strongest work to date. Its opening passages are on a par with his Vinyl Coda series, with Jeck effortlessly transforming grizzled surface noise into languid atmosphere.But Stoke really gets going with the breathtakingly simple construction of Pax, upon which Jeck overlays an aerated Ambient wash with the time-crawling repetition of a single crescendo from an unknown female blues singer. By downpitching her voice from the intended 78 rpm to 16 rpm, he amplifies its emotional tenor by making her drag out her impassioned declarations of misery far longer than is humanly possibly. The effect is just beautiful. Philip Jeck has always been good, but Stoke makes him great. [Jim Haynes]
Before diving into Stoke, it's best to acquaint oneself with its composer and his unusual musical convictions. While Jeck utilizes multiple turntables for his musical expression, he is not a DJ by electronic or hip-hop standards. With a fondness for scratches, dust particles and other physical vinyl deformities, Jeck is the record collector's absolute worst nightmare. In order to maintain his impressive instrumental arsenal, Jeck purposely leaves his vinyl out of its sleeves, encouraging environmental deterioration for the sake of creating a one-of-a-kind sound bank that no keyboard could ever match. Consequently, Jeck's instrumentation is always in a state of flux and he can never perfectly reproduce a composition in its entirety. And while certain musicians deemed "composers" by the listening public are generally classified under a broad "experimental" label, Jeck's unique, and at times absolutely bizarre presentation leaves him in a genre all his own. Jeck's instruments of choice on Stoke consist of Bush, Fidelity and Philips record players, a Casio keyboard and an Alba portable CD player. Together, this peculiar collection coalesces into a layered fabric of cyclical waves, ambient textures and distinctively inimitable orchestrations that fall somewhere in between an old Nurse with Wound release and the bleeding edge of musical composition. Six out of the seven tracks here are edits of live performances recorded in such varied locales as Liverpool and Osaka; "Lambing" is the sole home recording, created for a Lucy Baldwyn film. Oddly enough, each mechanized composition has a peculiar movie-score quality to it; Jeck's jangles either settle quietly in the background, subtly altering moods, or swoop abruptly to the forefront, picking at your wits like a ravenous vulture. "Vienna Faults" brings to mind an electronic pet store, complete with chirping birds, whirling fish tanks full of tropical exotics, and plodding lizards, modestly surveying the surroundings. South Asian flavors dominate "Below", as haphazard sitar notes precariously wobble through textured record-hissing. The corresponding sister tune, "Above", has a more organic feel, as DJ Jeck manipulates his turntables' pitch, cascading unexpected sound effects over nameless artists' deconstructed tunes as if echoing a cryptic Future Sound of London track. It's a bit much sopping up everything on Stoke in one sitting, as the muscle behind the discordant drones and fugacious changes is exposed only after several headphone-led excursions. Taken in small doses, however, Jeck provides some immediately appealing and innovative work that shouldn't be overlooked by any musical thrill-seeker bored with the stagnant state of rock 'n' roll. Thankfully, Jeck's combination of three turntables and a (possible) microphone doesn't translate into being "where it's at" on the alt-rock scene; instead, he strives to push the definitive boundaries of 21st century music. [Andrew Magilow]
Philip Jeck always seems to surprise and surpass expectation every time I hear him perform. I've heard him spin out haunting loops for avant garde dancers to strut about to in art spaces. I've heard him spin stickered platters alongside guitarist Vergil Sharkya and fractal videographer Gerd Willschvetz in an underground car park in Liverpool. I've heard his scaffolded ranks of old car boot turntables mash up crackly memory traces from worn needles bumping into wires and stickers in a London gallery. I've heard him go walkabout at a festival opening, cutting up dictaphone recordings with the pause button. After his ambitious quartet of lengthily (r)evolving 'Vinyl Codas' released by the Intermedium label, he returns to Touch with seven shorter live excerpts from performances in Liverpool, Manchester, Osaka, Tokyo and Vienna. With only a single sample Casio keyboard to aid the junkyard turntables spinning varispeed deteriorating vinyl, he necessarily limits his options but unlocks endless potentials from abundant alternate histories coded in the grooves. When he loops records at low speed, worn old cliches morph into haunting new textures. A phantasmal keyboard hoot that forms the bedrock of "Pax" sounds like it might've morphed slowly from a cheesy old J. Geils Band charity shop hit. "Above" cuts scratchy old vinyl into train chug clunks and chicken squawk with some slowed speech narration to explain what exactly isn't going on. "Lambing" is a home recording, soundtracking a film by Lucy Baldwyn, and wouldn't sound out of place on his previous Touch CD 'Surf,' with groaning ghost vox repeating an eerie refrain over the crackle'n'drone spin, until slowly a sunrise glow cracks dawn beneath the locked groove rhythm faultlines. "Vienna Faults" waltz around like a music box in a tumble dryer. There's some crazily mangled sitar "Below," reversing into hollow metal hammering, cut dead by a sudden descending blues guitar riff. "Open" seems to rework familiar noises from 'Surf' into a noisier delayed clatter. "Close" does just that, with some more sitar loops, more meditative but just as playful as before. Stray starry plucked fragments drop in at odd angles until a loop locks and deteriorates to a stutter as a single piano note bashes to infinity. A ghost choir of Hamaiian folk singers emerges from the vinyl crackle fog to bid a fond farewell. If you haven't heard Philip Jeck before, this is not his most immediate recording and 'Surf' or the 'Vinyl Coda' series might be better ports of entry. He has not yet left the building. [Graeme Rowland]
"The combination of a vaguely remembered noise and the nostalgia of a room...". What Philip Jeck proposes, then, is a mnemonic exercise, of a "homemade" or "domestic" essence, resorting to no less handmade equipment, such as old record players, a lo-fi sampler, a dictaphone and a CD player likewise in need of retirement, in the aural search of some paradis perdu of the vynil era. At the extreme opposite of a turntable virtuoso and the fragment aesthetics of Christian Marclay, of Martin Ttrault or the Japanese Otomo Yoshide, Philip Jeck's third CD is most likely closer to the nostalgia of Pierre Bastien. But if Bastien looks for "trance" through the repetition of sound fractal molecules, spinning our memory in an endless loop of quotes - "belle epoque" or more traditional jazz, Jeck blocks those same loops, covering and uncovering, making a mess where Bastien had applied the detergent. The result is abrasive, industrial, composed of accumulation of residues out of which strange lithurical atmospheres emerge - such as in "Pax", a gospel lament that evokes the more intellectualised manipulations of Carl Stone or Ingram Marshall, smashed by a misplaced couch. [Fernando Magalhes] Translated by Heitor Alvelos
Side Line (Belgium):
P. Jeck brings experimental back to its most natural form: a point from which you have to progressively explore the infinite universe of sound sources. This is an exploration throughout diversified spectrums, covering different styles like ambient, industrial and pure experimentalism. "Stoke" is a very bizarre entity for the diversified sounds we aren't really used to. P. Jeck sounds closer to a sort of noise-scientist than a musician does and he therefore may remind of the early pioneers of electronic music. I personally prefer the last tracks, "Below", "Open" and "Close" for being a bit more elaborate. This album goes crescendo, like he first had to find the raw materials to finally conceive a final product! This is an essential record for the lovers of meaningful experimental and ambient stuff! (DP: 6/7) DP.
Turntablist Philip Jeck is no garden-variety DJ. Armed with a coterie of vintage Dansette phonographs, a slew of used records, a keyboard and a CD player, Jeck fashions his enigmatic music out of hazy, off-killer loops and crackle, snatches of sepiatoned melodies , and distorted vocals. Like much of Jecks work, many of the seven pieces that make up. Stoke possess a distinctive, ominous quality to them, even at their most beautiful. Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of Jeck compositions- such as "Lambing" with its plaintive howls and soft staticky pops or the oneiric blues of "Pax" - is that they are both mesmerising and profoundly unsettling. Very highly recommended. [Susanna Bolle]
VITAL (The Netherlands):
To be very, very honest: turntable players are usually not my cup of tea - and I don't know why. Maybe it has to do with the superstart status some DJs have acquired over the years, so that they are the rockstars of the millenium (as far as we know it). And why? Because they play a few pieces of vinyl and get the crowd cheering? But there is also a group of people using turntables like rock artists who use a guitar: as an instrument. Here too I sometimes have problems, certainly when the played records are easy to be recognized. No such thing however in the work of Philip Jeck. Stoke, his third full length for Touch, was recorded at various concerts and uses besides various record players, also a simple casio keyboard and a CD player. With these relative simple means, Jeck sculpts his music. Building it layer by layer, adding slowly more pieces. Of course there is a rhythmical aspect to this dark music, but hey we're talking extensive use of vinyl here. As said none of his sources can be recognized, but I guess they are pretty much old 78 RPM's. Highly minimal music, that is also highly fascinating. The repetitiveness of the music lulls you into a hypnotic state, but one that is different from the minimal techno boys. Fascinating music. (FdW)
Bad Alchemy (Germany):
Jeck ist der Minimalistischste unter den DJ-Knstlern. Strker als Marclay, Tetreault oder Yoshihide vermeidet er Zitat oder Collage, er lsst die Geruschwelt einzelner Plattenrillen in sich kreisen, er feiert den Loop als Ouroborosschlange, zelebriert schwarze Messen mit Vinyl und CD-Black-Boxes. An Stelle des Schnittes herrscht die kleine Verschiebung, die progressive Selbstunhnlichkeit, die Ununterscheidbarkeit von Wiederholung und Variante. Dennoch, die weniger restringierten Passagen, etwa die verrauschten Sitars bei 'Below' und 'Close' oder das Geschepper von 'Open' sind emotional natrlich effektvoller. Die gespenstischen Slowmotion-Field-Hollers von 'Pax', wie unter Wasser gespielter Pierre Bastien oder Gavin Bryars' 'Sinking of the Titanic', gehen als ultimativer Blues absolut unter die Haut.
and Mark Williams in the City Newspaer, Washington DC (USA), writes here
Radio Alligre, Paris:
A great album from this british turntablist. Ghoost music from the country, reminescent of Richard Thomas but with an amazing attention to sounds and harmonics.
Loop after loop and a hundred patterns in, it's clear that minimalism is alive and skipping on Stoke. Jeck, along with Fennesz, Ekkehard Ehlers and Otomo Yoshihide, exposed the relatively untapped possibilities of gorgeous sound produced merely from a phonograph plexus caressing aged vinyl. The music on Stoke wasn't so much a mantra as it was a microcosmic sample of the beauty of a passing moment: "Vienna Faults" evoked the never-changing landscape of wintry Europe, viewed from the passenger seat of a bullet train; "Below" captured the distant toll of a church bell (transposed from a hobbled sitar sample), and fractured vocal transmissions; "Pax" isolated the underwater croon of a blues singer as he drowned under the clang of the earlier train and his own morose helplessness. If half-remembered imagery of dreams is the closest we can get to the next world, Stoke provided fleeting notes of the trip. [Dominique Leone]
The record spins slowly, wobbling on the turntable, emitting crackly waves of virtually unrecognizable music, the melodies inalterably splintered and the rhythms disrupted. The warped, slowed-down voice reverberates from the speakers through a haze of static; its warbly tremor exudes sadness, like a lonely drowned ghost singing wordlessly from the bottom of the ocean. Philip Jeck's albums-constructed almost entirely from old, worn-out, warped, and broken records-are explorations of just such beaten-down territories. Jeck is a DJ in one sense: a crate-digger and vinyl fetishist who collects interesting sounds and juxtaposes them in unique and (hopefully) compelling ways. But the results of his music, and the types of sounds he seeks out, place him so far from the realm of the traditional DJ as to be in a totally different genre.
Jeck's compositions, mostly created spontaneously in a live setting, are arranged around loops of warped vinyl, molding a beautiful, ever-changing collage of sound from music long-abandoned. With his Vinyl Coda series, he crafted long, slowly mutating pieces which drifted along on a constant wave of static, incorporating new ideas over time on an epic scale. These mammoth improvisational pieces often used as many as 20 turntables at once, and Jeck's largest installation, his early piece "Vinyl Requiem," included over 180 turntables spinning simultaneously. But in recent years Jeck has been paring down his set-up, using less and less record players and honing in on his ideas more carefully to create minimal, tightly focused compositions
Stoke, Jeck's fifth solo album, is the direct result of this new approach. Recorded, like the Vinyl Codas, during live appearances, the seven pieces on Stoke are very different from the British turntablist's past work in every other way. For one thing, these compositions have been edited down from longer works, resulting in shorter running lengths for most of the songs. Each piece generally explores a single idea, building up and creating tension within a four-to-eight-minute block. On past albums, each of these songs would have been just a part of a larger piece, a patch in a drifting, massive quilt. It's clear that the editing work here consciously limits each piece to a coherent sound or style, and the result is an album that's just as varied in the moods it evokes as any of Jeck's more monolithic compositions, and yet it somehow works better as an album than anything he's done before.
Stoke also contains some of Jeck's most beautiful single moments ever. The best aspect of his music has always been its capacity to isolate individual moments in music and recast them in startling ways. Such moments-like the emergence of a Christmas carol amid the spooky mid-section of Vinyl Coda IV-can chill you and break you out of the sometimes static stretches that occasionally marred Jeck's past work. This time around, the music is composed almost entirely out of those kinds of moments.
On "Pax," Jeck re-imagines the role of the soul singer. Over a wavery organ loop that gently builds then fades away amid a wash of echoes, a singer slowly groans out a wordless lament. Jeck's slowing down of the already distorted vocals draws out the emotion and sentiment of the singer while obscuring the words-in effect, isolating emotion from lyrics. "Close" is centered around a very simple guitar motif, repeating ad nauseum and very slowly incorporating minor changes in its twangy, slightly exotic style, but the beauty of it is its very simplicity. The track builds patiently, picking up speed and adding elements as it culminates towards a gorgeous finale. When, halfway through its 15-minute length, there's a changeover from a chaotic guitar-based jam to a more subdued, bass-heavy groove, it's marvelously affecting. For the song's second half, a lovely voice echoes through crackling surface noise and a slow rhythmic framework that's nearly submerged beneath the static. The piece seems truly alive by this point, full of competing tensions and ideas, and the result is jaw-dropping in its raw emotion and beauty
Throughout this album, it's impossible to describe exactly how Jeck's relatively simple music can have such a devastating effect. Perhaps it's a part of the inherent mystique of vinyl, something embedded within that hissy, ever-present crackle that comes from playing a well-loved album over and over again. Or maybe it's the element of surprise, the beautiful feeling of not knowing what to expect bubbling out of the mix next. Whatever the case, Jeck clearly has an even firmer grasp of these concepts than ever before, and Stoke is a monumental work in an already great career. He manipulates pure sound, the discarded remnants of past musics, into a compelling work of art that is alive with the ghosts of the past while being firmly entrenched in the moment. [Ed Howard]
Best of 2002:
Turntablism employed toward abstraction rather than percussion, texture rather than beats. Imagine Oval's affection for the introspective quality of CD dysfunction, but applied to vinyl.
Finally, after waiting for ages, Philip Jeck's totally genius Surf album gets reissued. Oddly enough, perfectly coinciding with what might be his best release since Surf, the simply titled 7, which sonically sounds remarkably like Surf (see the review elsewhere on this list). For those who aren't familiar with his work, Jeck is a UK experimental turntablist who extracts sounds from old battered turntables like an archaeologist excavating some ancient vinyl burial site, using surface noise, skips and crackles, to weave dreamy sepiatone soundscapes of underwater waltzes and pastoral murk. Surf is quite possibly the perfect realization of Jeck's sonic vision. Sinister loops and minor key melodies slither through blurred landscapes of sound, rickety and decaying, shimmery and indistinct. Like blurry postcards of someplace you've never been, or a fleeting memory of someone you've never met, translated into sound. A sound so warm and thick, familiar and inviting, that it transports you to a sonic universe where a skipping record becomes your footsteps, and a repeated crackly phrase becomes the wind through the trees. Easily one of the most transcendentally perfect records ever.
The notion of turntablism may be associated with flashy, deck-hopping scratch gymnastics, but the use of the record player as an instrument harks back to a less ostentatious tradition of music making. John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Schaeffer, and James Tenney recognized records and turntable mechanisms as manipulable sound sources. In essence, sampling began with the real-time deployment of gramophones in performance by theseartists and academics.
Philip Jeck, like peers Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, and Martin Tetreault, legitimizes the turntable as a musical instrument. On SURF, Jeck lifts sounds from old vinyl and treats them in fascinating ways. The fragile melody of "Box of Lamb" arises not from direct quotes but from a well-considered reconstruction of the source-vinyl sounds. Preserved pops, crackles, skips, and scratches lend complex rhythmic character to the profound loop-based atmospheres of "Demolition," "Spirits Up," and the loping, almost funky "I Just Wanted to Know." "1986" works a Woody Woodpecker sample, an insistent guitar phrase, and swatches of nostalgic music into audio bricolage brimming with humor and analog warmth. "Surf Finger," electro-acoustic gamelan music masterfully cemented with effects, and the vertiginous CD-skip simulation of "Tilting" provide SURF's most intriguing moments. [firstname.lastname@example.org]
VITAL [The Netherlands]:
This is the second CD by Philip Jeck to be released on the fabulous Touch label. The first was titled 'Loopholes' and somehow failed to grab me like this one. Perhaps I just didn't hear it at the right time. Philip Jeck (together with Lol Sargent) won the 1993 Time Out Performance Award for their 'Vinyl Requiem' for 120 dansette record players, 12 slide projectors and 2 movie projectors. The music on this CD was composed using record players, tape machines, Casio keyboards and effects. Jeck is a true alchemist exploring the perimeters of sound, and while some of his compositions are very reminiscent of some of the material released by Zoviet France (Tracks 1 and 6 for instance), others retain a deep mysterious colour even after several and a half listenings. Records are sped up and slowed down, run through snappy delays and augmented with minimal keyboard pads producing a wide range of sonic architectures. 'Box Of Lamb' sounds like underwater rockslides, or slow swells of sound surf. Then there's a slight bongo fury at the start of 'Surf Finger' which decays into an orchestra under fire from an industrial sandblaster on valium. Erratic, indistinct shapes convolute and unwrap themselves from a bass pulse - blurred voices try to share secrets but the lines are crossed and they reach their conclusions before they realise their subject. Track 5 '1986 (Frank was 70 years old)' is a jumpcut journey from one side of a city to the other - angels with upside-down faces live at the edges - gravel chants, chancing gravity. The final track on this release 'I Just Wanted To Know' starts reassuringly and then develops as a soundtrack for the final stroll down that last corridor - gentle, warm and safe. The peerless Jon Wozencroft created the cover, which like the music, is imbued with a deep sense of nostalgia and comfortable familiarity. The images he uses resonate with all the clarity of archetypes - like going home. (MP)
Surf is the second CD from the British experimenter whose sound manipulations begin with record players and tape machines. His work "Vinyl Requiem" (with Lol Sargent) for 120 Dansette record players was awarded Time Out magazine's 1993 Performance Award. On these seven pieces (many commissioned for theatre companies) orchestras, rhythms, voices and rhythms ("Surf Finger") are borrowed, manipulated or run backwards (the ethereal tones of "Box Of Lamb" and "1986 (Frank Was 70 Years Old)"). Jeck's resultant textures place him among others of the British post-industrial scene, rather than the mixology of avant turntablist Christian Marclay. The captivating layered frequencies of "Spirits Up" recalls Zoviet France or Rapoon at their most mystical moments, while the clanging guitar loops of "Demolition" recall the grittier tracks of Gilbert & Lewis's Dome. And Jeck is not just looking for musical sounds as vinyl crackles are amplified and mixed à la Panasonic and others. (Chris Twomey)
...An absence of the sudden jump-cut allows the music to develop gradually. The same is true of Philip Jeck's Surf. Jeck has worked with turntables in the group Slant and with choreographer Laurie Booth but is best known for Vinyl Requiem, his performance for 180 record players (stocks in junk shops still haven't recovered!). His second CD serves up seven interesting slices of lo-fi vinyl collage. Unlike Bastien, Jeck processes and shapes his loops, presumably with his reel-to-reel tape machines. The music is less obviously generated by vinyl and is closer to current electronica. Highlights include "1986 (Frank was 70 years old)", which pitches punky textures with woodpecker sounds and a backwards orchestra - and could that be a fragment of Suicide's "Dream baby dream" on "Spirits up"? That both artists have created distinct styles is testimony to the fact that avant-turntablism continues to move rapidly out of the influence of Pioneer Christian Marclay. (Paul Hood)
Fluctuat [France, web]:
Le protagoniste joue des platines et les passe au travers deffets multiples de réverb ou delay, créant des sons chauds et humains. Les disques de platinistes sont légions ces temps-ci mais en voici un nouveau qui se situe bien loin des travaux de ses prédécesseurs Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, Stock Hausen & Walkman, et donne une dimension nouvelle au genre... Plus humaine, organique, réèlle. Son cut-up musical est très mature, et le résultat en est plus ambient que concassé, plus hypnotique que déstructuré et ainsi on a plus de facilité à plonger dans cet album que dans dautres exploitant le vinyle comme materiau premier. Le style avait besoin dun souffle nouveau et le voici en la personne de Philip Jeck. [Philippe Petit]
The Wire (UK):
"The loop 'n' scratch method Jeck made famous in his Vinyl Requiem installation for 180 Dansette players has more than mere novelty value. The music rising out of the method affords a glimpse of the future through prisms of past records. The advantage that obsolescent avant gard tricks for tape and vinyl have over sample loops is their very unreliability. Tape loops eventually stretch out of phase, antique record player speeds are apt to falter. Jeck brings such flaws into play as an extra chance element in pieces already abounding in pleasures and surprises from the way he resolves the textural and timbral clashes of his various mismatched sound sources."
Philip was also interviewed in the same August 1995 edition:
"On Loopholes, his impressive solo debut CD, Jeck also uses tape loops and a cheap Casio keyboard to create a lo-tech jungle without the breakbeat - a collision of sources rendered unrecognisable through speed changes, short loop lengths and distortion. The progressive degeneration of material through successive re-recordings is celebrated in Jeck's blissed out, textural aesthetic. For the Loopholes CD artwork, Touch label partner and graphic designer Jon Wozencroft creates a neat visual analogy to the music using photographs of VHS playbacks of images generated by camcordering TV pictures. The medium loops back on itself and enhances its own idiosyncratic qualities. "Its similar to the way I'm working with sound: just textures and landscapes. You're not quite sure what they are and it doesn't matter," says Jeck. "I'm not brilliant at keeping time with tunes or whatever," Jeck continues, outlining his idiosyncratic and primitive approach to sound construction. "With looped records or looped tapes the rhythmic structure looks after itself. I listen to the sound and change the tone controls actually on the record players. And I really only use two effects - an old cheap reverb which goes wrong occasionally and a guitar delay pedal. I just fiddle around with the controls until it sounds right."
Jeck trained in the visual arts at Dartington College and moved on to performance work in the 1970s. For a short while he was in demand as a DJ at warehouse parties imitating the innovative turntable techniques he'd heard coming from the States on records such as Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's Adventures on the Wheels of Steel. But it was during a five to six year collaboration with contemporary dancer Laurie Booth, which took him all over Europe, when he developed his own particular style on stage in front of an audience, tailoring his aesthetic more to the manner of performers like Paul Burwell and Max Eastley...Besides his ongoing work for dance companies (including a forthcoming BBC Dance for Camera programme), Jeck also works with the song-based group Slant. Meanwhile, Jeck's biggest project, the 180 turntable audio-visual collaboration Vinyl Requiem, starts a European tour at this year's Hamburg Summer Festival. Jeck's listening habits are wide-ranging and eclectic, including Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, Sinatra's Capitol recordings, John Cale and Nico, God, Material/Bill Laswell, fellow turntable manipulators Christian Marclay and DJ Krush, and the obligatory Bristol trio of Massive attack, Tricky and Portishead. For performance purposes, however, Jeck prefers the records he finds in car boot sales - records otherwise destined for obscurity.
Among the minimal information on the Loopholes CD booklet there's a Latin quote: Versa est luctum cithara mea... "That's from a piece of music I really like," explains Jeck, "a funeral motet by a Spanish composer, Victoria. It means, "My harp is tuned to mourning". And I am in mourning about a lot of things in this world, in this country."
Loopholes was in Yamatsuka Eye's top five CDs of 1995...
On Magazine (UK):
"A textbook example of how to make influential and stimulating music without playing a note. Taking old dansette record players, tape machines, a battered casio keyboard, and adding a sprinkling of good old fashioned creativity (no Akai samplers here...), Philip Jeck has fashioned a record of mesmerising depth and quality. From the opening tinklings, one is struck by the complexity of sound generated from such a limited arsenal, and the work's ordered appearance, despite the inevitable contribution of chance to the project. With nods in the direction of Oval's CD eccentricities, dubs' exploration of echo, distortion, and speed manipulation, and even the underlying properties of a marching band (on the chilling Ulster Autumn), this is probably one of the few recently released avant-garde efforts with the potential to cross over into the domain of the more adventurous ambient explorer. A low-fi classic for the electronic generation, and another quality contribution from the invariably impressive Touch label, straddling the tightrope between indulgence and inspiration with some skill (check out their Ash 1.9 Runaway Train for one of the most ludicrously enthralling recordings you'll hear all year)." DJ 4 minutes 33
The Empty Quarter:
"I feared the worst when I heared the tinkle of toytown bells on the opening Casio and thought this was going to be a general piss-take. But no, the second Anatomy added meat immediately through a looping of static charge. Philip Jeck uses old equipment rather that being a resident of the digital domain, not that you'd realise this by listening to Loopholes. Perhaps this is why there's a scratchy aura surrounding the recordings. He utilises vinyl discs which offer an authentic outmoded (in these times) feel. Long tracks reel around the speakers as rhythms fuse the tonal repitition into accessible pieces of music. Louie's Riddle might even be viewed from some techno chart of one sort or another, such is the easy nature of Jeck's work. Definitely one for those who are a little afraid to dip their toes into experimental waters."
"PHILIP JECK, of the British group Slant, plays turntables and tape-loops (and makes some particularly inspired use of the usually banal Casio) on his superb solo album, Loopholes (Touch (UK), c/o Dutch East India, 150 W. 28th St., Ste. 501, New York, NY 10001). His loops and spinning records create musical whirlpools from lush orchestral fragments, unnerving marching band drum cadences and strange, unidentified percussive sounds. These varied sounds vie together well as an album through their similarities of movement and a very interesting wobbly character produced through turntable speed manipulation and cheap reverb."
"Sometimes, sampling just means plunderphonics - vaguely altering the original's sound source and using it for dubious means - and sometimes it's used in a particularly novel manner, as Philip Jeck offers on the gangly Loopholes. Using just a single Casio keyboard, plus vatious tape-recorders and record-players, Jeck conjures up everything from systemic beatmusic ("Louie's Riddle") to aliens in the bush speaking in tongues ("PS Two"). Seemingly 'simply' constructed, in reality these arresting pieces form a complex and highly individualistic mosaic of sound."
"He really needs to be seen live, but Loopholes by Philip Jeck [Touch] has its own mild-mannered appeal. Jeck takes existing vinyl and creates artificial lock-grooves, looping and cycling and mixing several records at once (plus occasional similar tape manipulations). The obvious comparison, Christian Marclay, seems to lack Jeck's rhythmic mesmerism. The hypnotic side of Jeck's music is to the fore here, often at the expense of internal variety. That said, most tracks show subtle development, and the atmosphere created is often pleasingly surreal (e.g. on the estimable Louie's Riddle, with its insistent drum loop; or on the ominous shriek and martial drums of Ulster Autumn)."
"Sis darbas pirmiausia i aki krinta novatorisku ir originaliu priemoniu panaudojimu, nors idejiniu aspektu jam galima papriekaistauti... Kitas, ne maziau intriguojantis leidinio aspektas - procesas, kuriuo realizuojamos idejos. Stai siame santykyje ir rutuliojasi kompozicijos priemonemis, turi savita skambesio charakteri ir apskritai daro idomaus ir intriguojancio leidinio ispudi."