AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Philip Jeck – Sand (2008; Touch)

Jeck is an electronic artist who mainly uses turntables to create infinite loops of sound which he then organizes into digestible events within a given piece.  Sand can be a daunting listen, imposing demands on the listener. Simply having it on as background or hearing it while preoccupied with other thoughts is not recommended. To appreciate it, (as in most electro-acoustic/Acousmatic music) requires a sort of contract with the listener to be present, committed and “all in”. This contract, if not breached yields excellent benefits because Sand delivers a soundscape rich and teeming with detail.

Sounding very lo-fi at first, Jeck extracts the sounds between the sounds on the grooves of old records. It’s the things we are not supposed to hear or pay much attention to. An incidental random melody that may only last for moments is looped to symphonic proportions.  As the sound sample is looped, different electronic process’s may be deployed at the composer’s discretion. These may be as subtle as small volume changes or, much more radical where the entire spectral content is morphed, stretched, and remade into something quite different than what it started its life as. 

Conversely, Jeck may occasionally startle the listener by capturing a random event and removing a single, split-second segment.  That tiny segment may then be inserted elsewhere, creating a burst of white-hot noise over the stretched drones happening beneath it. When this sudden burst of sound makes its journey through your ear canals to your brains processing center…the effect is not unlike a star going super nova for the nano second that you are conscious of it.

All the while, the continuous crackles and pops of needle in groove lightly hover over this tableau like a thin haze of gauze-like latticework.  The overall effect is incredibly unique and quite alien.

As the album progresses, you begin to realize that what sounded like lo-fi is actually the intended overarching sound of the entire album. What Jeck does with this lo-fi raw material…the tweaking, looping, augmenting with occasional keyboards and other various processes is the real artistry. So, what at first may sound like a poorly recorded mess of dirty sonics is in actuality, a living, breathing universe of rich, resonate detail.

Although I’ve had this album for a while, I only recently re-listened to it and, it was a revelation.  Jeck will most likely become a name of significant interest to me, and thanks to his Bandcamp page, there seems to be a plethora of material, both old and new to explore.  Listening to Sand provided an enjoyable and unique experience, one that not only presented new sonic possibilities but also newly discovered audio terrain to decode.  I’m looking forward to diving into his back catalog and more current offerings.

Mike Eisenberg