nedjelja, 30. prosinca 2012.

Marielle V. Jakobsons - Glass Canyon (2012)

Ne stakleni kanjon, nego kanjon staklom iskopan u muzici Philipa Glassa.

I can’t help but listen to Glass Canyon, Marielle V. Jakobsons’s new solo album, visually. Frankly, Marielle’s images are intriguing: purple sands, crystal orchards, cobalt waters, dusty trails, albite breath, and shale hollows. The images find their consistency (as even purple finds its etymological origins in hard matter, a shell) in solidification or re-solidification (depending), and present themselves as aural sculptures — impermanence yearning for at least semi-permanence. Solidification only necessitates a holding of something in place, formed and for awhile. What’s held in place in each image, leaving aside the ‘problem’ of metonymy, is mutable nature. The act of holding itself is a tension between the synthetic and the organic: part artifice, part nature; part electronic, part acoustic. Marielle’s Twitter profile reads: “I make sounds with strings and electronics.”
Even as I claim that Marielle’s songs are aural sculptures, they’re not tableaux. The songs on Glass Canyon do very little to replicate the recognizable sounds of their titular images. In the first minutes of “Purple Sands,” you hear something like a breath or waves — a ‘natural’ sending out and then retracting. But as that subsides, so does any semblance of the world. Marielle hasn’t made an alien music, but neither has she made something thoroughly rooted, as noted above, in bioacoustics. (She’s not the first to do so and by no means the most abrasive in her divergence; in fact, it’s easy to call Glass Canyon an indisputably gorgeous and accessible album.)
The presence of the violin makes me want to use the word “classical,” but there is nothing particularly classical in the language of Glass Canyon. Likewise, ambient; no, the album is too engaged and too engaging. Instead, what Marielle has replicated, as Sean McCann and Troy Schafer alongside her have replicated, is the exuberance of nature, the subtle, superabundance of the given thing itself — never more showy than it needs to be and slightly estranged. Never totally contrasted and always subtly blended. The relationship between the violin and the electronics is, as I wrote above, a tension — both nervous and balanced — that finds itself on the cusp of losing the other.
And Glass Canyon is a frantic album. Quiet, quick beats barely emerge and swell in the deep. Although they don’t hold the entirety of the album in their tension, they come up sporadically as a reminder. One thinks of Liturgy’s ‘naturalistic’ “burst beat,” only Marielle’s beats, which are more natural, have the weight and intensity of a pulse: they are more felt than heard, and shape rather than force an image. To hold something means that it’s capable of going away: water, flora, the body, space itself. Maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch, but what is sculpture if not an attempt to interrogate and fill space, even with the memories of space itself? -

Oakland-based violinist and sound-artist Marielle Jakobsons is one half of Date Palms and the excellent Myrmyr, whose Fire Star LP was one of the highlights of 2011. Glass Canyon is her first solo outing in a while, and finds her exploring the vast expanses and secret enclaves of the American landscape through a deceptively simple set up of synthesiser and violin. You might think you already own enough records along these droning, immersive lines - and so did we, until we fell head over heels for this beautifully produced, not to mention perfectly paced and sequenced album. 'Cobalt Waters' reminds us of the extraterrestrial distress signals of Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, but rendered more organically, while 'Crystal Orchard' explores Glass-style cycling strings with burbling electronics in a way that could hardly be called original, but is captivating all the same. 'Dust Trails' sounds like chugging 70s kosmische if it had arisen out of the prairies of the Midwest US rather than the arts labs of Cologne, Berlin and Dusseldorf. And if you've got an insatiable thirst for deep, dark, drone music then look no further than awesome closer 'Shale Hallows' - which comes over like a Lawrence English or a Fennesz given a subtly gothic edge. Trust us, this LP really does stand out from the pack - check the samples. - boomkat

What is it to experience the beautiful? Wittgenstein believed that when the eye sees something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it. Beauty seems to bring copies of itself into being. For Oakland-based sound artist and violinist Marielle V.Jakobsons, it seems the beautiful in nature is something that calls forth sound reproductions. Jakobsons’ first major work under her own name is a stripped down aural nakedness of synth and violin, to examine (as she has said herself) “where the two timbres meet.” The beauty-in-nature introduced through the six track titles, each combining colors with landscapes, along with the disc’s megacosm-inspired graphics implies a reproduction of the beautiful in nature.
In the positing of the two instruments against each other, there is a perpetual duplicating of a sound movement throughout the album. The first track, “Purple Sands,” introduces this duplication with a low threnodial synth and the flutter of iambic strings playfully teasing out the sleepy drone imitated throughout each track. For an unrecognizable nine minutes, the audience floats in a tranquil sea, reflecting the deep concentration and an attention to proficiency of the musician. This is sound design at its finest, the pacing perfection, and the mood inciting eternal artistic creation. For its entire dark semblance, each track carries the optimism of the natural and the breath-light touch of the beautiful.
With such deep attention to this beauty, and the recreation of a dance between two unusually partnered instruments, Jakobsons generates her own intrinsic musical laws. A good example is “Dusty Trails,” with the pulsing electronic murmur of the synth writhing and weaving through a traditional choral style string, until the end of the track when the synth pares down into a rapid metronomic whirr and the strings reduce to a high pitched solo lament, each moving within its own traditions and yet each sound reaching out for the other. The end of the track with its electric echoes and demented contortions evoke the beauty of each sound as it morphs into a new partnership.
The strings are electronically tainted, to bring them closer to the synthesized sound, but in the deft hands of Jakobsons, they never lose their vibrational impact. Jakobsons is as fine a synth player as she is violinist and it is her patience and her ability that allow the sounds to sit in layers upon each other, from the heady dominating chords on “Albite Breath” through to the belly-aching drone on “Shale Hollows.” The latter track is the final of the six and the most traditional drone of the bunch. One is almost tempted to call the sounds ambient, but they are too well crafted and too intricate to play to so light a description. This is a mood drawn from the beauty of nature and what seems to be a desire to reproduce that beauty. It achieves this indeterminate objective by revealing some fringe of sound that has previously been inaccessible to the rest of us. - Lisa Thatcher 

I absolutely loved Jakobsons' last solo album (Darwinsbitch's Ore), but her many collaborative releases since then have varied quite a bit in both style and quality.  Recently, however, she has been on a definite hot streak, as both Myrmyr's Fire Star and the Espvall/Jakobsons/Szelag album were pretty amazing.  Glass Canyon does not quite keep that impressive momentum going, but there are enough flashes of inspiration to make it an intermittently satisfying effort nonetheless.
Students of Decay
In characteristic fashion, this album marks the beginning of yet another new direction for Marielle: prominent use of synthesizers.  Unfortunately, I cannot help but find that exasperating, as synths are very much in vogue these days and their ubiquity is definitely wearing on me.  I am not some sort of crazed Luddite or anything, but a considerable part of Jakobsons' appeal for me was due to her organic intensity in a field so rife with laptops, synths, and artificiality.  As a result, Glass Canyon is quite a bit less distinctive than most of Marielle's other efforts.  Also, some of the more aberrant pieces just seem jarringly out of place: "Dusty Trails" sounds like burbling, candy-colored neo-krautrock and "Crystal Orchard" resembles a Futurist Aaron Copland (not a compliment).  It is hard to comprehend how they wound up sharing an album with something as slow-burning and menacing as "Shale Hollows," which is probably the album's finest sustained piece.
Fortunately, several of the album's other dark pieces are quite good too.  In particular, I loved the moment in "Albite Breath" when the thick, quavering synths give way to a mournful violin coda.  It is probably among the most moving passages in Jakobsons' entire oeuvre, actually.  A few great songs do not quite salvage the album though–Glass Canyon is ultimately too uneven and too simple to burrow very deeply into my psyche.  Part of that may be by design, as Marielle deliberately set out to make a stripped-down album in order to focus on the textural contrast between violin and synthesizer, but I do not think that she allowed that impulse a sufficient gestation period: too many of these songs are lean on strong melody and place too much faith in the appeal of buzzing, throbbing, and oscillating.
Normally, I would describe this sort of album as "a transitional effort," but Marielle's whole career has essentially been one unending transition and it is entirely possible that her next release will bear no resemblance to this at all.  I suppose occasional misfires are an inevitable occupational hazard that comes with constant reinvention and restless evolution.  Although I suspect much of my disappointment may be due to my unrealistically high expectations and my subjective bias against analog synth textures, I think I can safely say that this does not rank among Jakobsons' best work.  Existing fans will no doubt enjoy a few pieces, but the merely curious should go elsewhere. - Anthony D'Amico 

 You’re probably already familiar with Marielle Jakobsons’ without even realizing it. The kraut drone chanteuse has meddled with the best that the Bay-area experimental scene has to offer, circumventing collaborative sonic tides with Gregg Kowalski as Date Palms, Agnes Szelag as Myrmyr, and just about every notable west coast-drone specialist as Portraits. This isn’t Jakobsons’ first solo outing, having crafted confounding bits of epic sound as Darwinsbitch, but this does seem to be the coming out of in her own right, unassisted and unencumbered by other players. Every sound is her own, and the output has her name without any alteration or pseudonym.
Mixing atonal electronic textures and fill with high-minded strings and acoustics, Jakobsons takes claim to the darker yet beautiful side modern classical. Arp’s collaboration with Anthony Moore for RVNG Intl.’s consistent FRKWYS series could serve as a sonic compatriot, but those pieces meddled with a playfully childlike curiosity for inspiration. Mixing isolating string-induced tones with electronic sifts, static and noise, Jakobsons’ palette reaches far and wide both geographically and temporally.  Sonics a la the original  krautrock spacial travelers collide with dark drone experimentalists for a confounding version of modern classical.
Glass Canyon starts unassumingly enough with “Purple Sands,” a piece that balances extremes of light and dark, under and over saturation, and fragility and sturdiness, effectively establishing the template for other pieces to follow. Just as Jakobsons’ material on Date Palms’ excellent Of Pslams, the songs take their time to unfold and progress naturally. On “Crystal Orchard,” the eagerly pensive strings of Arthur Russell and Sophie Trudeau paint elegantly broad swatches of emotion, again playing on juxtaposition. Cycles of melody quicken and slow while bubbly synth noise a la Jeff Witscher unsettle things just a bit.
“Cobalt Waters” reveals Jakobsons’ hand as a tried and true purveyor of early electronics, this time channeling Raymond Scott and Daphne Oram with heavy emphasis on atmosphere and tension. Halfway through the piece, the synthetic squall dissolves into an epically desolate scene with icy strings and feedback, inducing chills via cinematic sound only Ben Frost seemed to have previously mastered.
The grimly beautiful sounds continue deep into the second half, staring with the deceivingly upbeat “Dusty Trails. An eager yet restrained cello and violin fight with a shroud if shimmering analog texture for emphasis, but end up proving the rhythm and pacing throughout. As the suite plays through, the narrative shifts and Jakobsons reigns the chaos down the jaggedly seamless run. Album closer “Shale Hollows” closes the album and acts as the most straightforward drone piece here. Much like loscil’s aquatic subtonal tones or Pulse Emitters’ haunted, alien broadcasts, the bass and tones seem otherworldly but also completely human. Touches of color and blips of noise create a mise-en-scène that captivates and destroys everything in its wake. - Bobby Power

Glass Canyon, the second of Marielle V Jakobsons’ solo releases but the first under her own name - as opposed to last year’s debut Ore, released under the notable moniker of ‘Darwinsbitch’ - is third in a line of major releases from Jakobsons this year; yet if one compares it to musical efforts far longer in the making, you find that this release sounds no less sonically planned - that is, every nuance of the music lends itself to the track and (most importantly) the overall atmosphere of the release - without losing that vital, ‘moving’ energy that only music made alongside other things (Jakobsons’ two solo projects, ‘Date Palms’ and ‘Myrmyr’ have both had releases this year) can seem to latch onto, and channel.
Opener Purple Sands quickly encapsulates the dual nature of the album’s sounds - throbbing, minimal bass synth noise, over which effects-laden violin arcs and cries, under the sounds of high up winds. At just under nine minutes, it may appear to be a hefty undertaking for an opening track, but Jakobsons’ ability to rein her music in to really allow the impact of what she is doing before releasing it to build into new landscapes makes her pieces almost akin to orchestral works, comprising of many smaller movements that are built upon and advanced continuously over time.
Indeed, the dichotomy present in Jakobsons’ sound palette could, at first glance, appear to be risky in that the worlds of dense, synthesised noise and the violin have, perhaps in the past, appeared to be rather mutually exclusive. Yet within Glass Canyon, this exclusivity seems to disappear, with - although admittedly somewhat processed - violin sounds not meshing with, but instead building upon a foundation of synth in a seamless fashion. Yet this makes the release sound very two dimensional. Jakobsons’ skills as a synth player are not to, in any way, be considered as secondary to her violin playing - indeed, the playing on the release ranges from beautiful, crushed- organic layers of sound on Crystal Orchard to what could potentially morph into the beginning of an early acid-house record on Cobalt Waters, before again becoming the underlying current upon which delayed, swarming snippets of violin melody are fleetingly placed, before decaying into glitches and static fragments.
Closing with fuzzed-out, low voltage throbs of beautiful synth piano on Shale Hollows, Jakobsons out does all previous efforts in this release - a trend that will hopefully continue, in both solo and collaborative outings, far into the future. - Max Hampshire

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