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Triosk Meets Jan Jelinek 


Wednesday, Feb 11 2004
Ken Burns' documentary Jazz, which ended with the 1960s, may have left out a thing or two. 1989: DJ Premier folds jazz into the hip hop lexicon with Gang Starr's debut. 1994: Mo' Wax announces a new birth of cool with the dusty-grooved compilation Headz; hipsters grow goatees and learn to name-drop Mingus and Ayler. 2004: It becomes impossible to pick up a music magazine without suffering through innumerable reviews for tepid downtempo records described variously as "jazzy," "jazz-tinged," and "jazztastic"; hipsters shave their goatees and start practicing scissor-kicks to the Darkness.

But if jazz has grown scare-quotes on its trip from hip to square, the career of Berlin's Jan Jelinek provides an alternate dimension where "jazz" is less a cultural signifier -- you know, smoky nightclubs, black-and-white photos, the grimace of the tortured artiste -- than a set of sonic principles to be turned inside out. Jelinek, both as Farben and under his own name, breaks jazz recordings down to atomic particles and reconfigures them into densely porous walls of sound. On Jelinek's records, which thrum and hiss over the gentlest of pulses, picking out a single blue note is a bit like finding the hidden number in one of those pebbled tests for colorblindness.

Now Jelinek has teamed up with the Australian improv trio Triosk and taken his method full circle. Working off Jelinek's samples and computer files, Triosk composed various instrumental sketches for drums, piano, and double bass, which Jelinek then reworked into flickering abstracts. The result is an unlikely marriage between improvisatory gusto -- expressed in flights of keys, stand-up bass runs, and explosions of percussive energy -- and advanced sound design. Brushed cymbals fray into distorted glitches; a Rhodes keyboard melts into pools of delay. On "Theme From Trioskinek," a jaunty, uptempo tune not unlike the Charlie Brown theme is dragged down by Jelinek's compressed sound effects, giving the impression of a runner training underwater, straining for grace with every step. If electric jazz had its Bitches Brew, it's only fitting that someone, someday, would give us Glitches Brew.

About The Author

Philip Sherburne


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