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Jan Jelinek Avec the Exposures - La Nouvelle Pauvreté

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Artist: Jan Jelinek Avec the Exposures

Album: La Nouvelle Pauvreté

Label: ~scape

Review date: Apr. 3, 2003

Micro-managing Cultural Rifts

The aesthetics of electronic music are embedded deeply in political narratives, and are constantly being redefined in tandem with changing perceptions of race, sexuality, and the rest of the usual cultural suspects. Seem abstract? Recall disco's transformation from a gay, black youth culture to a straight, white fad in the late-70's. Suddenly, a straightforward disco beat emanating from a drum machine signified masculinity and heterosexuality, in contrast to the obvious historical reality. Musical meaning followed social acceptability. An entire genre was clumsily given over to a brand new audience who infused the music with their own ideas and expectations. Similar plots repeat continuously; genres and subgenres pass between cultures like so much pocket change.

Jan Jelinek is aware of the ways in which musical cultures interact with one another. His records, under his own name as well as pseudonyms like Farben and Gramm, cross modern clicks 'n' cuts and minimal dub styles with older, primarily African-American genres from free jazz to funk a la Isaac Hayes and Donna Summer. However, unlike lesser artists who might attempt such connections by awkwardly shoving a saxophone solo with reverb over breakbeats, Jelinek strips everything down to its components and starts from scratch.

Because he is arguably the most inventive producer in microsound circles today, and especially because he makes dance music that feels real, his music is actively functioning as a link between unequivocally soulful styles and the more abstract stuff. As the abstract producers slowly shed their hesitance to experiment with dance styles, we see that Jelinek is already several steps ahead of them.

And the new record, Avec The Exposures, Avec La Nouvelle Pauvrete in French, is a masterpiece. Jelinek boldly titles his tracks after legendary artists like Sun Ra and Lalo Schifrin, and then lives up to every one of his lofty claims. Not that his "There are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)" equals Ra's version. It isn't intended to. Jelinek's brilliant musical statement is that his impeccable influences have led him to something new, something specific, to right now. He is the rare, brave artist in electronic music (or anywhere) who rarely succumbs to the temptation of clichés, and who goes far beyond what is required of him. Like his last full-length of new material, Loop-Finding Jazz Records, this record produces a completely original aesthetic within its short timeframe, a country mile more creative than any other artist like him. His is the kind of music that attracts with equal fervor techno purists, hardcore experimentalists, and neophyte listeners.

Avec The Exposures is much closer to Jelinek's work as Farben than it is to Loop-Finding Jazz Records. There are less moments of calculated silence, less delicacy. Like the also brilliant Textstar, a collection of the Farben 12"s, the grooves here are deep and right out front. The bass is gritty and even bouncy. Following the introduction, Jelinek mocks any expectations with "Music to Interrogate by," an electro-spy tune that sounds like something from MurderCapital and Hotmix Elektro-nix. He's never released a track quite like it, but it works perfectly as a foil to the more optimistic and lush electronic funk that shows up later on.

The album reaches its first superlative moment with "My Favorite Shop," a song that takes a minute to warm up before melting into a mix of underwater organ melody, ’70s soul piano, and clicky beats. Sublime, no question, and sonically astute. "If's, and's, and but's" is a very funky track, but it’s smooth sounds also work as ambience. The synthetic bass captures all the movement of real funk bass, down to the slightest imperfections. This music is comparable every bit as much to Moodyman as it is to the Bar-Keys.

With electronic dance music opening up more in abstract circles, we are witnessing the transformation of a dance-stigmatized genre into a more functional combination of experimentation and dancefloor usefulness. Jan Jelinek, with his superb appreciation of sundry musical categories, especially those more soul-influenced, is producing just the right sound to bridge the divide in a way that feels more like innovation than theft of ideas.

By Ben Tausig

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