Jan Jelinek’s Loop-Finding Jazz Records got a reissue last year. One of those great records that is masterful in its nuance, it wanders hazily around in the overlapping venn sectors between dreamy sustained ambient tones and spaced-out clicks and cuts, where Thomas Brinkmann meets Hiroshi Yoshimura or Wolfgang Voigt meets Mark Ernestus. The shimmering held keys and breathy, rippling rhythms create strange dreamlike loops which build like layers of snow, thick but muted, like a gentle inevitable moire blanket. Comedown microhouse. I’ve recently discovered people’s reaction to the record in the comments under YouTube which are a charming mix of achingly sincere and pretentious haughtiness.
The record is truly revered and rightly so, and it is amusing to see people describe it as underrated. It feels very personal, delicate, uncanny, downcast, full of subtle detail to unpick. Jelinek got into music collecting dub, jazz, funk, and soul records, however his own productions often follow an incredible conceptual bent.
“I don’t even see myself as a musician…” he once stated in an interview with Resident Advisor. “First, I have a concept and then I try to work on that. For instance, for my radio pieces there’s a very strict concept and I’m trying to fulfil the ideas which I had probably a few months before.”
Jelinek has explored stylistic conceits through myriad guises, projects, genres, groups, partnerships – USB sticks encased in concrete, his foray into the world of krautrock with Kosmischer Pitch, his ‘discovery’ of Ursula Bogner, his recording of recordings which challenge the philosophy of copyright, his stunning work with Masayoshi Fujita. His brilliant Faitiche label and it’s accompanying show on LYL is distinct in its sound, a heady blend of sibilant neo-classical and wonky-jazz, dusty minimal garage and humid Neolithic Hassellian vistas, writhing, straining electronics, frantic drum peals and heady perfumed pads.
Hi Jan, can you tell us a bit about the upcoming Lady Gaga-referencing release on Faitiche?
The Lady Gaga reference is actually one of twelve ‘sound poetries’, which I gathered for a radio play and a forthcoming new album. Every piece is using interview answers by one particular public figure. Lady Gaga is one of them – besides Yoko Ono, Slavoj Zizek, Max Ernst, Joseph Beuys and others. Those interviews have been processed and consist at the end of the brief moments between spoken words: pauses for breath and hesitations in which the interviewees utter sound particles. On a second stage the voice collages controlled a synthesizer, creating sounds and textures that merged with the voices. The result became a rather abstract sound structure. I came up with idea while analyzing and cutting a beautiful interview with Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp’s voice had been microphoned very well, his voice had a nice timbre and he smoked cigarettes while talking which created interesting sound effects. So I began to realize that those rhetorical ‚failures‘ have their own beauty.
Having certain elements of your work resonating with different audiences to others must be quite liberating. Has that informed your creative output in any way?
No – not really. I actually don’t address my work to different groups of listeners in advance nor by purpose. Wouldn’t it be terrible to do so? Naturally I’m working with the ideal that it could interest everyone. Reality brings me back every time a piece had been released.
How important is the concept of memory in your work? The jazz records in Loop-Finding Jazz Records; the dual identities of Los Angeles you’ve talked about in LA Screen Memories; the reflexive sampling on the G.E.S. records and exotica from your radio pieces; you seem to take an interest in engaging with objects and places, turning them over and around to find new and unique perspectives. Does deconstructing an idea allow you control of the memory?
I’m interested in one aspect of memory conception: the materialization and conservation of acoustic information. Once an acoustic situation has been recorded it receives a thingness I like to work with. Like a physical object every recording holds a certain material character – and triggers an individual connotation. My work is actually driven by a very simple question: What’s happening when I’m combining or confronting one material with another one? It’s like a chemical reaction: Sometimes two rather uninteresting audio recordings start shining in combination. Also I wouldn’t call it deconstruction – its much more a banal: creating interrelations.
Something similar could be said about identity – what are your thoughts about the freedom that pseudonyms give to an artist? Of course the speculation around Ursula Bogner play into this question.
Creating music in the cloak of a different artist’s personality is a great relief – that’s for sure. The reason why I like use pseudonyms is simple: It structures my output and gives me the chance to create a distance to my personal biography. Naturally a detached position to your own biography is a myth – but it is myth which creates nevertheless artistic freedom.
The upcoming concert at the Union Chapel will see you support Midori Takada – an interesting pairing, drawing together tonally similar music from very different sonic worlds. Is Takada an influence for you? What are your thoughts about her work?
I have to admit that I’m not really familiar with her work. But I’m looking forward to see her performance.
Adopting Japanese themes in some of your solo material and collaborating with the likes of Masayoshi Fujita and Computer Soup, what is it that attracts you to Japan?
Yes, indeed – I feel very attracted to Japan. I like the fact that every little aspect in Japanese society involves an aesthetic contemplation. And I like the fact that they deal with strangers like with a friendly ghost.
Your repress of LFJR was incredibly well received last year, as were the Takada records which also saw re-releases. What do you think about the culture around record buying? Does it benefit the industry more than harm it?
The concept of record buying has been coined by the industry – so why should it harm the industry? I never understood the point that some people sell record buying as a subversive action. Just because you choose a not contemporary sound carrier it doesn’t mean that you don’t buy a product. Don’t get me wrong: I like vinyls as well. Because of three reasons: 1. Every vinyl comes with an illustration 2. The format allows only a fixed time frame 3. It’s a sound carrier which allows physical manipulation.
Some of your projects, like G.E.S., pose questions about the legitimacy of taking legal action against sampling copyrighted material. Do you think more artists should endeavour to be political or subversive in their work?
Music as political agitation is only in theory a good idea. In reality it hijacks the idea of music as an artistic expression. Naturally I highly appreciate artists, who are following an ideological code. What I try to say is: every artist’s biography and work should definitively be guided by political decisions, but once an artist starts to use music as a platform for political agitation music becomes irrelevant.
You’ve said before that you find electronic music to have stopped being innovative, that it now only reproduces itself. Has your opinion changed at all in recent years? How healthy is the current state of electronic music?
Of course this observation is including my own work as well. But I think ‚healthy‘ is the wrong word. Nothing gets ill once the motif of innovation is gone. I don’t see it even critical: every music genre reproduces on and on self-defining parameters. The same happens with electronic music. With the birth of techno music we had perhaps one of the last big shifts of paradigms: A moment of creation, isolated from historical references – a total break of common practice and convention. Obviously even after 30 years electronic music is still breathing the pathos of avant-garde, is claiming it as one of the self-defining parameters. But isn’t this rather unreasonable? When I look around I see a finely branched reference system – and productions, including mine, which are referring to and combining those codes.
And finally, what can people expect from next week’s performance at the Union Chapel?
Well, as you suggested before: my catalogue is very diverse. Perhaps I’m going to demonstrate exactly this matter of fact…
Krankbrother brings Jan Jelinek and Midori Takada to London’s Union Chapel on April 17th – buy tickets here.