AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Philip Jeck – Resistenza (2022; Touch)

The singular talent of Philip Jeck was a thing to behold.  Hearing this posthumous document of two live performances I can’t help but think hell… this guy deserves to stand on the same pedestal as some of the great sound organizers like Parmegiani, Bayle, and Ferrari.  The word “organizer” is not enough though.  Parm, Bayle, and Ferrari were composers… composers of the highest order, plain and simple.  Jeck was too, but he just chose to do it without the typical tools of the trade of the GRM (and others) crowd.  A couple of cheap, heavy-duty workhorse turntables and a large collection of old vinyl records are all one really needs to know about Philips’ M.O.  This was the basic stuff that was augmented by an equally basic Casio sampling keyboard and other mundane delay and looping stomp boxes and… that’s it.  That’s what it took to deliver the world to his doorstep and damn…did he make full use of it!

Resistenza is released by Touch (the label that has made it possible for the world to hear his entire catalog of works) on what would have been his 70th birthday.  It grants us a front-row seat for two live performances that further cement Philip Jecks’ particular genius… not that it needs cementing as any listen to past albums would attest to.  The first track, simply titled “Live in Torino” is a 36-minute sonic walk through an amorphous cloud of memory, nostalgia, triumphant joy, and deep melancholic beauty.

The first time I heard the “Live in Torino” set I just let it have its way with me.  I knew I was in for some of that special kind of weirdness that only Jeck could provide, and it was there.  You know… how he drapes everything in a patina of “the good ole days” where life held a certain potential… personal to each listener but common in the way that somehow, things were better back then.  It’s that hauntological future… the one that somehow got away, and you start asking yourself how in the world did I get to this point, in the here and now?  This is all a Jeck-ian trademark and it’s present in everything I’ve heard from him.

So yes, in that respect “Live in Torino” is new/old Jeck.  Something that a fan would expect.  Crazy that the expectation is there to begin with… like, ho hum, another typical Philip Jeck walk down memory lane and oh, have a raw emotional trigger point to mull over in the process.  Sure, that happens all the time in music, right?  RIGHT?

So, the write-up could pretty much end here by saying Resistenza is a must listen.  Music that succeeds this strongly at the “feelings” level should be and IS enough… full stop.  But, after going through my own little catharsis, further listens were of a more analytical nature… I know, imagine that?  I wanted to try and disassemble the music and search for that element that makes it tick.  “Live in Torino” ebbs and flows and, within its many moving parts is the walking path a listener can take that holds them all together.  The changes that the piece goes through, and there are quite a few… all work together in painting that memory-stimmed panorama I spoke about above.  Funneling down, it’s the quiet little details, the workers within the music that are the essential building blocks.  The controlled use of the clicks, pops, and scratches in the records he uses, the choices of old, haunted ghostly sounds from those records, the speeds in which he plays them, the way he piles these sound events on top of each other as they loop into infinity, the way he fades from one motif to another… I don’t have the foggiest idea technically what he’s doing but the hard listens I’ve done were incredibly fascinating, in a mind-bending sort of way.  What makes the music tick?  Well, that’s the wrong question.  It just does… and somehow Philip Jeck has tapped into it.

The second piece on the album, “The Long Wave, Live at Liverpool Philharmonic” is a 27-minute duet with pianist Jonathan Raisin.  In contrast to the many faceted dips and swerves in “Live in Torino”, this piece has Jeck sticking, at least for the most part to providing a mid to high-range drone as a bedrock for Raisin’s piano excursions.

The piano is placed high in the mix, certainly higher than Jeck’s electronics so it’s harder to key on whatever detail he’s bringing into the piece other than a sense of smooth smears of sound.  This sympathetic base serves its purpose because… by way of contrast, the piano seems to be the star here.  Raisin’s playing uplifts this piece into the cinematic zone.  I’m occasionally reminded of pianist Ketil Bjørnstad’s water-themed albums from the 90’s on ECM.  “The Long Wave”, while lacking in the ghostly, time folding within itself moments of “Live in Torino” still works wonders.  It taps into the limbic system from the direction of something more… hopeful.  A sense of yearning, or longing for a redemption that just might be within grasp.  We can all use some of that!

Resistenza is a superb document showing two different, but equally great faces of Philip Jeck.  This release comes with my HIGHEST recommendation.

Mike Eisenberg
Twitter: @bigaudio999

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