Philip Jeck - "All That's Allowed" (Suite: Live in Liverpool)
By now you probably know what Philip Jeck sounds like, and whether or not you like what he does. This record is unlikely to sway your opinion if you donít, and if you do, it will simply reconfirm what you already know. If it noses out the rest of the pack, itís because it finally answers a long-standing question; when is he going to put out an LP?
Vinyl has been Jeckís medium since the early 80s, before changing formats made it an emblem of obsolescence. But as records and their players seemed ever more to represent something past, he found ways to use the eroded sound of time and wear to forge a link with things lost and half-remembered. His own presentations have grown leaner with time, from installations with dozens of turntables to his current live set-up with one or two; heís also used fewer and fewer records within a concert, preferring to wring maximum effect from each looped and sampled phrase. But even though heís made his music from records, until now heís put it out on CD.
Suite: Live in Liverpool is Jeckís first LP, and it doesnít come in any other format. While there are doubtless some turntable-enabled folk gloating about that fact as they listen to the thump of the stylus hitting the groove and rolling directly into a thicket of craftily cut crackle, I kind of wish the label would relent and make it digitally available. This is top-drawer stuff, as affecting as anything the man has ever made. Suite shares some source material with Sand, which came out a few months earlier, but the edits are less obvious. The materialís underlying narrative is thus less overt, but just as affecting. The fragments of music that Jeck has appropriated ó a woozy sitar lick, disembodied drumbeats, muzaky orchestral swells ó range from cryptic to simply banal, but derive paradoxical power from their anonymity. The selections have a vague, could-have-heard-it-anywhere quality that draws you into a state of reverie; once there, phrases flicker past and around each other through a dense fog of echo and surface noise like memories you canít quite grasp. But it isnít formless; Jeckís mastery lies in knowing how long to let it play out. The music may invite you to get lost, but it never loses its own way.