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Philip Jeck - Sand

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Artist: Philip Jeck

Album: Sand

Label: Touch

Review date: May. 9, 2008

Sand is both a measure of and a metaphor for time, which is doubtless why Philip Jeck picked it as the title of his latest recording. Themes of memory, loss and perseverance in the face of obsolescence are central to his art, and the quote in the liner notes from Emily Dickinson’s “The Chariot” confirms that he hasn’t dropped the thread. It reads:

“…the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity.”

To rush through life, the poem seems to suggest, is to hurtle towards death. But Jeck’s own music rarely hurries. Instead “Unveiled,” Sand’s first track, creeps reluctantly into audibility. It sounds slowed down, as though someone had held their finger on the record. And maybe someone did; Jeck’s main instruments, after all, are beat-up second-hand records and portable turntables. He gives them a new lease on life, but at a cost. The gleaned fragments that he distorts and loops rarely sound whole. “Chime Again” is assembled from a looped, train-crossing bell and some muzak strings that have been filtered to a distant-horizon blur.

In general, Sand’s source material is less recognizable than ever, which makes the parts that you can make out (for example, the licks from Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” on three different tracks) seem especially significant on first listen. But, in short order, the anonymous elements overtake them, just as the music’s murky background swallows its foregrounded sounds. After a while, it’s the distant details, like the flute lurking at the edge of audibility on “Shining” or the high pitches scrambled by galloping horse hooves on “Fanfares Forward,” that register. They’re audio analogues to the forgotten life experiences that guide us from beyond the edge of consciousness.

By Bill Meyer

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