Philip Jeck - An Ark for the Listener

CD - 9 tracks - 49:57
Plus bonus 320kbps .mp3 download - 1 track - 30:59

**When you purchase this CD from the TouchShop you will receive as a free download:Philip Jeck - Live at Corsica Studios, London, recorded on 1st July 2010. This performance was recorded straight to digital from the main desk. In order to obtain your free download, click "Return to Touch" at end of PayPal process, and you will be given a download link**

Artwork & photography by Jon Wozencroft
Mastered by Denis Blackham

The cover shows Mirosław Bałka's installation at the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, "How It Is", April 2010.

Track Listing:

1. pilot/dark blue night 8:47
2. ark 4:21
3. twentyninth 2:36
4. dark rehearsal 7:36
5. thirtieth/pilot reprise 2:56
6. the all of water 8:29
7. the pilot (among our shoals) 4:33

coda:

8. all that's allowed (released) 3:24 - you can hear this track here: http://www.philipjeck.com/mp3s/remix.mp3
9. chime, chime (re-rung) 7:34

Philip Jeck works with old records and record players salvaged from junk shops turning them to his own purposes. He really does play them as musical instruments, creating an intensely personal language that evolves with each added part of a record. Philip Jeck makes geniunely moving and transfixing music, where we hear the art not the gimmick.

Philip Jeck writes: "A version of "An ark for the listener" was first performed at Kings Place London on 24/02/2010. It is a meditation on verse 33 of "The Wreck of the Deutchsland", Gerard Manley Hopkins poem about the drowning on December 7th 1875 of five Franciscan nuns exiled from Germany. This CD version was recorded at home in Liverpool and used extracts from live performances over the last 12 months. The "coda:" tracks are remixes of 2 pieces from "Suite: Live in Liverpool". "chime, chime(re-rung)" was originally made for Musicworks magazine (#104, Summer 09) and "all that's allowed (remix)" is previously unreleased. All tracks were made using Fidelity record-players, Casio SK1 keyboards, Sony mini-disc recorders, Behringer mixers, Ibanez bass guitar, Boss delay pedal and Zoom bass effects pedal."

An ark... is Jeck's 6th solo album for touch since 'Loopholes' in 1995. The Wire reckoned it was 'Stoke' (Touch, 2002) which 'made him great, but his body of work and his achingly brilliant live sets are rapidly defining him as one of our best artists, and his recent award from The Paul Hamlyn Foundation confirms him as such.

Philip Jeck studied visual art at Dartington College of Arts. He started working with record players and electronics in the early '80's and has made soundtracks and toured with many dance and theatre companies as we as well as his solo concert work. His best known work "Vinyl Requiem" (with Lol Sargent): a performance for 180 '50's/'60's record players won Time Out Performance Award for 1993. He has also over the last few years returned to visual art making installations using from 6 to 80 record players including "Off The Record" for Sonic Boom at The Hayward Gallery, London [2000). In 2010 he won one of The Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards for Composition.

Reviews:

Foxydigitalis (USA):

Famous for his massed turntable multimedia works, composer and choreographer Jeck here turns in a seductive tone poem, moored by creaks, winds and miniature explosions of static, on a nuclear beachscape of grain. “An Ark For The Listener” is by turns richly beautiful and somnolently spare, at once atonal as it is mellifluous – a dynamic perhaps best exemplified by the climax of the first track, “Pilot/Dark Blue Night,” in which, from a mist of aching haze, a Mellotron-esque pad rises dominant like a choir at the close of a ritual. The effect is curiously exhilarating. In a record content to move slowly through its shades, such moments of dynamism are especially striking – almost akin to the awestruck rush (presumably) felt by a traveler in the dark ages when a church spire were glimpsed through the gloom.

Elsewhere, passages wander with little event, not that one may mind; its internal rhythms and narrative pace grow quickly embracing. Always when asked to articulate thoughts on drone/ambient music, I struggled to spew forth such time-worn adjectives as ‘ethereal’, ‘haunting’ and ‘elegiac’ – such over-ripe observances it would be like describing Paul McCartney’s latter-day Beatles songs as “melodic.” Absolutely, this record IS ethereal, haunting and elegiac, yet when discussing music within which there is so little extracurricular data it seems we as critics must fine-tune our microscopes and look deeper into textures divorced from other critical filters. Here, Jeck has crafted a mesmeric shower of granulated “choirs,” non-geometric forms rising from the mire, ghosts and shadows surfacing for air, before sink into a new miasma. In truth, I cannot discern the sound-sources of any of these pieces – rather than being alienating, it prompts a pure response from the listener – enforcing a disassociation from cornball hallmarks and easy graspings. It sounds fresh and always will, because of this inimitable alien newness. Where a synth pad can be traced directly to a particular module, a certain disappointment can creep (aside from the flagrant but surprisingly forgiveable use of the Yamaha CS1X on Robert Wyatt’s troubling and beautiful “Cuckooland”), a risk elegantly sidestepped by Jeck on this release. “An Ark For The Listener” sounds as though it were beamed fully-formed from signals gathered by the International Space Station, and thus has the rare capacity to propel the listener into an unfamiliar dimension, albeit one steeped in warmth and clarity.

This is a compelling record indeed and one which I would love to perhaps see performed live over a screening of Blade Runner; such is its dystopian ambience. In “An Ark For The Listener,” Philip Jeck has birthed a creaking, otherwordly triumph. [Nick Hudson]

Brainwashed (USA):

On his sixth solo album for Touch, Jeck continues his perfection of using the record player as an instrument (not as a DJ) to create a long-form piece that has no sense of gimmick or cliché, but instead is a hazy, but warm and inviting piece of captivating music that is unlike the work of anyone else. Originally intended for live performance, this studio reconstruction is amazing on its own.

Having never seen performances nor read intimate details of his compositional technique, I’m fascinated by exactly how Jeck coaxes the sounds he does out of his rudimentary instrumentation. On this album, the requisite record players were used, along with the infamous Casio SK1 keyboard, mini-disc recorders, and a bass guitar with only a few effects. How this becomes the gauzy atmospheric music that is presented here, I don’t know, and I think I’ll be happy not knowing as long as the music keeps coming.

A recurring motif throughout the seven "main" songs here is a lo-fi melodic undercurrent that is absolutely immersed in reverb, giving a feeling that’s not unlike the Cocteau Twins or My Bloody Valentine but without sounding like either one of them. In these massive and heavy, but warm waves of sound, occasionally a bit of music is allowed to pass through. Percussion is hinted at on "Pilot/Dark Blue Night" but never fully appears until the closing "The Pilot (Among Our Shoals)" where it takes the form of snappy snare drum loops, with what resembles time-stretched harp plucks and violin notes as accompaniment.

As aforementioned, sometimes the musical source material shines through to the surface, such as on "Twentyninth," where the big reverberated sounds and cascading guitar tones could be a careful study and dissection of 1980s hair metal, reduced to its most base elements and rebuilt into something entirely different and far more compelling. "Thirtieth/Pilot Reprise" continues this, focusing on hidden melodies and Jeck's overdriven bass guitar playing with a guitar-like squall and a thin, brittle closing section.

Other pieces are less discernable, such as the dramatic swells of indecipherable sound of "Dark Rehearsal," which are preceded by some subtle, delicate melodies. "Pilot Reprise/The All of Water" is a chaotic pastiche of layered sound, immediately surging heavily and then continuing on with the same intensity, the sharp waves of sound battle one another over the dramatically drifting undercurrent.

For the album's coda, two remixes of tracks from Suite: Live in Liverpool are included, sounding noticeably different than the preceding album, but just as strong on their own. Mostly eschewing the hazy ambience of the other tracks, "All That's Allowed (Remix)" shapes shimmering passages of crystal sound into swirling melodies, keeping a very clean, sharp feel over a dynamic undercurrent. "Chime, Chime (Re-Rung)" focuses on beautifully tactile static bursts covering a bell ringing alongside twinkling wind chimes with the occasional bit of squealing feedback. There is a different sort of audio grime that appears, and the whole song is more loop/sample focused than the other ones, which felt like they had more of an organic drift to them.

Philip Jeck's work continues to sound like no one else's, in the best possible way. Regardless of the instruments used, he constructs beautiful, tactile sound that spreads out and engulfs its surroundings, demanding full attention. Few albums I have heard this year are as immersive and captivating as this one. [Creaig Dunton]

Dusted (USA):

The basic process and materials haven’t changed for An Ark for the Listener, the new album by British turntablist Philip Jeck, his sixth solo album for Touch. Using old portable turntables, salvaged records, guitar pedals and a mixer, Jeck makes soundscapes out of surface noise and twists disembodied sounds into ephemeral melodic phrases. Sonically, Jeck’s music compares to the processing-heavy approach of Fennesz and Tim Hecker; all three bounce analog source material between circuits until only spectral sounds remain. Songs and whole albums crystallize around these blurry moans and digital fragments as the artists find structure in distressed signals. On their most recent releases, Fennesz and Hecker deploy sounds that are very similar to the ones that characterized their most popular albums (2001’s Endless Summer and 2006’s Harmony in Ultraviolet) with a greater sense of restraint and dynamics. Like his peers, Jeck has fully established his language by this point and chooses to move forward by dialing back the density. With An Ark, Mr. Jeck is also broadening his narrative scope (the album is allegedly a meditation on verse 33 of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland”), and the result is a lyrical, superbly paced piece of music.

All this means that Ark has a fair amount of downtime where not much is happening apart from atmosphere. Although this is not unusual for the artist, it makes for a different listening experience than his previous full-length, Sand, which emphasized individual tracks and rough sounds more than the overall album experience. Maybe this brainy calm is a product of the Hopkins theme? Jeck meditates on the stanza, from a poem addressing a shipwreck that took down some nuns, in the same way the late German novelist W.G. Sebald meditates on a dingy English seascape or a murky photo. The thread connecting Hopkins, Sebald and Jeck is memory. And An Ark for the Listener reminds us that remembering always leads to digression. With technology doing so much of the remembering for us (Sebald and Jeck both “play” records; the first uses paper and celluloid ones while the second uses vinyl), the emotional connections between these objects are what matter. By using old, faceless records as his source material, Jeck isn’t quoting, appropriating or alluding. These artifacts are used to set the machinery of memory in motion, and the tone is necessarily melancholic and mournful. It’s intensely subjective and opaque, too, but I’d only call it ambient in a pinch.

Of the artists mentioned above, Jeck is probably the least accessible, and An Ark for the Listener can be a difficult album to absorb. But, in the company of Fennesz’s Black Sea and Hecker’s An Imaginary Country, the album under review seems like it has the greatest chance of outliving the creative crisis that spawned it. Its emotional cues are more subtle. Even at its most inert, it creates a thoughtful environment rather than making the listener uneasy or restless. And every trip through it takes on a different shape. These are pretty basic criteria for the kind of art music Jeck and Co. make, and this style is gaining traction in other venues thanks to people like Oneohtrix Point Never. Sometimes I think this is what all classical music should sound like or aspire to in some secret way.

Jeck’s music remains textural rather than tonal, but he enters into a more musical relationship with his noises on An Ark for the Listener. This may seem like a backhanded compliment, but with this album, Jeck continues an artistic development that’s slower, more deliberate and thoughtful than many contemporary musicians allow themselves. It promises to age well. [Brandon Bussolini]

Aquarius Records (USA):

Of all the sound manipulators, soundscapers and dronologists out there, few can touch Philip Jeck. A master 'turntablist', able to create whole new worlds out of sound, to transport the listener to another place, real or imaginary, with just a clutch of record players, a handful of dusty old vinyl, some cheap Casio keyboards, a couple minidisc recorders, a few mixers, a bass guitar and some effects pedals, the musical equivalent of some mad scientist, creating a time machine, or some temporal shift manipulator, out of odds and ends from the kitchen or the garage. The magic is in the process as much as the result, that result being at least partially beholden to the process, not to discount the sheer creativity and ingenuity of the artist. Because that's exactly what Jeck is, an artist, painting impressionistic landscapes with sound. Instead of colors, he deftly manipulates textures and rhythms, layers and melody, subtly mixing various elements to create something other, the various constituent parts irrelevant to the final piece, like staring at a painting up close, it's not until you step back, that the various elements coalesce into something magical, and beautiful.

An Ark For The Listener is a sonic mediation on a poem about the drowning of five exile nuns in the 1800's, and was performed in various locations throughout 2010, this recorded version incorporates bits of the live performances into the final recorded piece, a gorgeously somber soundscape of deep drones and of mysterious sonic swells, the opener "Pilot/Dark Blue Night", is a hushed drift of stretched out tones and muted sonic garble, a chorus of croaking frogs beneath moaning low end melodies, a slowly unfurling minor key drama wreathed in hiss, truncated rhythms, and clouds of click and chitter, deep bell like tones, and swirling soft focus ambience, culminating in the final few minutes with a super emotional bit of looped strings and epic almost choral swells, strangely skipping, uncharacteristically revealing their vinyl source, but it's precisely what makes it so intense and mysterious.

"Ark" is a tinkling driftscape of chiming tones, and distant melodies which gradually transforms into a weird bit of droney wah wah-ed bass flutter, "Twentyninth" is a perfect slab of Jeckian dreamdrift haze, shot through with moving minor key melodies, and cinematic like tension, a few of the tracks grow dense and turbulent, the sounds thickening, becoming almost caustic and corrosive, while others seems to grow more and more fragile, diaphanous stretches of crystalline shimmer, the record proper finishing off with the surprisingly rhythmic "The Pilot (Among Our Shoals)", with its soft avalanche of looped beats, its tangled flurries of pizzicato strings, a soft focus frenzy of dizzing turntable swirl, which gives way to a lovely outro of hushed barely there drift and breathless low end murmur.

The cd tacks on two bonus tracks, reworked versions from the Suite: Live In Liverpool record, one previously released, the other unreleased, both working surprisingly well with the record proper, "All That's Allowed (Released)" a shimmering expanse of blurred strings and disembodied melody, of softly staticky crackle, and hazy hushed drift, and "Chime, Chime (Rerung)", a crunchy and tactile stretch of tolling bells, reverberating metal, booming gongs and tinkling chimes, all wrapped in a gauze of crackle and pop, buzz and warble, the whole thing lit with some glimmering shimmering otherworldly light. So great.

VITAL (Netherlands):

Its been a while since I last heard music by Philip Jeck, 'Sand' to be precise (see Vital Weekly 626). 'An Ark For The Listener' is his sixth Touch release and sees him using pretty much the same equipment as before: Fidelity record players, Casio SK1 keyboards, minidiscs, bass guitar and effects. A rather 'lo-fi' approach still. 'An Ark' is a seven part work based on a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about the drowning on December 7th 1875 of five Franciscan nuns exiled from Germany. The piece was first performed in February of this year, but its not the version on the CD, which was recorded at home, using extracts of live performances from the last year. I don't know the poem (or perhaps its the one that is printed on the cover?), but its not easy to relate the music to that poem. The music is very much that of Philip Jeck. Heavily based around the use of loops, from the record players and the cheap sampling keyboards, multi layered and quite dense. Lots of times its eerie and distant, with outbursts of a more noise based character. Quite good actually, even not really a big surprise. A fine Jeck release, but not an entirely new perspective for him and also not his best release to date. But with such a small catalogue, with hardly any weaker brothers, this is pretty decent one. [FdeW]



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Philip Jeck - An Ark for the Listener


MP3 sample

Track 9:  All That's Allowed remix






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