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Jan Jelinek - Tierbeobachtungen

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Artist: Jan Jelinek

Album: Tierbeobachtungen

Label: ~scape

Review date: Feb. 12, 2007

By nature, minimal techno and its attendant clinical environs are marked by a lack of specific place. The cold nowhere of a hard drive, operating in a set fashion regardless of the context in which it is commanded to perform, was looked upon as a rare opportunity for pioneering minimalists; a new blank slate on which to map the interaction between beats and textural sound. After a point, this lack of context becomes exhausting, and one yearns again for natural imagery and organic sound. On his recordings as Farben, Jan Jelinek was able to rescue glitch composition from the homeless satellite of the personal computer. Without resorting to the drastic source-material-as-narrative techniques of Matmos, Jelinek staged his songs in specific environments by employing cinematic gestures and by borrowing rhythmic structures from funk and jazz.

On his solo outings since abandoning the Farben moniker, last year’s excellent Kosmischer Pitch and now, the equally compelling Tierbeobachtungen, Jelinek has done away with beats all together in favor of an exploration of the loop as a rhythmic tool. He seems here intent on creating small music for big rooms, touching off with a minimum of sound tools and repeating them until they become sonic monoliths, albeit polite ones. The record opens with warming tones of baritone guitar, expanding like reddening gradients of color across a weather map, tempered by a gently repeated sine wave. The formula continues on “Palmen Aus Leder,” as a single guitar pluck is adorned with a swimming air bubble rushing to the surface, only to be turned under again when the loop begins anew. On the record’s highlight track, the elusive “Happening Tone,” Jelinek’s process is more obscured, as washes of droning buzz rise and fall with no clear terminal point, and near-percussive distant clangs arrive unannounced as if introduced from some far off freight elevator.

In this up-close study of fuzzy repetition, Jelinek is clearly drawing on the tradition of Harmonia and Kluster, two German groups who broke psychedelia down into a equation of tones and put it under a microscope, their zoom lens illuminating the fuzzy edges of sounds previously thought to be regular and finite. Listening to Jelinek is a joy. One hears a talented sound-collagist paying homage to Krautrock’s greatest gifts to minimalism as he charts new frontiers on the fringes of his delicately summoned loops.

By Evan Woodward

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