The concordance between experimental musicians and theatrical performing arts groups can lead to stimulating experiences. It’s easy to admire performers passionately reacting to abstract configurations of non-traditional forms from collective dance, which allows for the most spontaneous examples of interaction between bodies chiseled for intricate pirouettes and abstract instrumentation by electronic virtuosos. Personal judgments concerning bleep and glitch arrangements are completely subjective when taking physical enactment into account, but that is where the potential for an arresting execution lies: How are these tracks going to be perceived, and what reaction will bodies have to sound that remains outside traditional realms of dance and ballet? Music for Fragments / Music and Birds, the latest release from German producer Jan Jelinek, consists of two collaborative practices, the first of which harbors the potential to shed light on this question — it consists of a project with Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Émard, whose latest production sees him exploring the psychological limits of characters propelled into a world manifest — while the second collaboration personifies an ornithological (the study of birds) project for the Barcelona Museum of Science.
The partnerships presented on Music for Fragments / Music and Birds are thematically worlds apart, which makes exploring their projected paths along the breadth of this record particularly engrossing. But it’s also worth taking a step back to understand why Jelinek might have earned these commissions to begin with, for he is no stranger to the production of absorbing electronic audio structures. His reputation was instigated through his Farben moniker, which was adopted to encourage the use of laptops on stage during live performances at the dawn of the new millennium. Jelinek’s objective was to remove what he saw as an ugly fascination the audience exemplified in paying more attention to the physical presence of performers as opposed to the music that was being played by becoming one of the founding electronic musicians to use his laptop as a live instrument on stage, making the aural aspects as concentrated as possible. This pioneering stance on live “performance,” working on projects with the likes of Pole and Bernd Friedmann and as a solo artist recording under his own name, were no doubt factors taken into account when deciding on Jelinek for the commissions presented here. What remains of interest is how the ideas and arrangements they embody have been cataloged.
Not only is there a long production time gap between the projects, but also the motives for each vary greatly. Purpose plays a key role in understanding how this mini-album has been constructed. The lifeblood of each track is dependent upon the inducement at hand, but the original concepts for these tracks have become somewhat eradicated through their pairing for this release. What this adheres to sonically is most thought-provoking, because without a previous awareness that these tracks originate from mismatched blueprints, it’d be difficult to discern any grandeur aesthetic shifts. Generally speaking, this is well-trimmed minimalist techno that fully embodies the glitches and clicks for which Jelinek has become renowned. The release succeeds because each track is distinct and leaves its mark across the course of perplexing artistry. However, beneath the surface lies an extraordinary shrewdness that is there to be discovered upon unearthing the nature of the circumstances within.
Sylvain Émard’s Ce N’est Pas la Fin du Monde is not set to premiere until April 2013 at Le Plateau in Eysines. The project homepage features looped images of a scantily clad female dancer twirling tai-chi-like alongside the silhouette of another performer, who prances behind the thin white veil that separates them. The piece is said to explore character identities and natural instinct expressed through dance in the context of a convoluted world undergoing drastic transformation, while “subtle” and “energetic” are enlisted in the blurb vocabulary to describe bodily movements. Jelinek’s involvement is stretched across two tracks that take up the initial half of Music for Fragments / Music and Birds; “Fragments One” projects a crinkled wave of soft ambient tones over delicate strings and chimes, which has the potential to complement the subtlety expressed in Ce N’est Pas la Fin du Monde before those soft caresses are hurled into a throbbing distortion vacuum. Separated from its initial intent, the music might be characterized as belonging to Jelinek’s Gramm project, which was brought to the fore in 1999 with Personal Rock, a warm and addictive ambient album produced in response to his earlier Farben EPs.
Transition remains a tantalizing focal point that exists between these two collaborations, the conjoining of lost identities in chaotic urgency and sonic ornithological interpretations across the space of a few seconds. While “Fragments Two” tumbles into a sporadic kick drum loop over earthy synth lapses, “Jackdaw” opens with an uncanny chirp that twists into repetitive woodwind manifestations. Very little can be detected here in terms of a deliberate transition, which highlights both the nature of the release and the agility of the man behind it. The steadiness within these recordings is unmistakably perceptible, by virtue of the artist’s style and the equipment he is presumably mastering to foster these sounds. Music for Fragments / Music and Birds makes for a comfortable and concise body of work that is unquestionably inviting but also departs from any central differentiation concerning the projects associated with it.
“Jackdoor” initiates the Science Square section, which is crafted from vinyl and tape samples that have been processed and shuffled during a performance at the Barcelona Science Museum in 2011. This latter collection explores the consequences of processing four bird recordings, which might not divulge a great deal from a scientific perspective, but each track differs immensely in re-imagining the calls and chirps from which they purport to spawn. “Forest Weaver” begins by assimilating a rampant and fluctuating electronic discord that brings to mind Levy Lorenzo’s Modified Attack joystick experiments, while harmonious tweeting can almost be distinguished in the unsettling landscape created through “Dipper.” Jelinek’s inventive methods resound more clearly on the second half of this disc, where the splintered glitch patterns he built his reputation on begin to shine through all the more radiantly.
Music for Fragments / Music and Birds is the first of four collaborations to come through the Faitiche label, and it yields a fine introduction. The songs encapsulated here demonstrate the artist’s aptitude in clashing creative extremes while simultaneously crafting crisp and textured productions. Whether or not one wishes to take into account the nature of the commissions, the album reflects the work of a veteran willing to tackle a panoply of ideas while adhering to aesthetic models he has continued building upon for over a decade. The physical reaction of Émard and his dancers is yet to be fully uncovered, but if the audio alone is anything to go by, Ce N’est Pas la Fin du Monde is set to make for a remarkable performance.