Philip Jeck - An Ark For The Listener [Touch - 2010]An Ark For The Listener is a meditation on verse 33 of Gerald Manley Hopkins poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” which concerns the 1875 drowning of 5 Franciscan nuns exiled from Germany. I’m not sure if taking one verse out of a rather long poem works but in case you want to know what verse 33 is here it is:
With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits—the uttermost mark
Our passion-plungèd giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides
Unfortunately the liner notes don’t give an explanation of why verse 33 and not the whole piece and that would have been useful. An idea of where Philip Jeck is coming from with this album would give more contexts to what you listen to.
For this album Philip Jeck uses Fidelity record players, Casio SK1 keyboards. Minidisc recorders, bass guitar, and various guitar effects pedals.
It’s an interesting album though it has a few moments that just don’t seem to work. I did start to write this review going through each piece part by part but it didn’t really convey how the album sounds. The elements of this that really work are the parts where he sounds not unlike William Basinski on his Melancholia or Disintegration Loops albums. Slow moving atmospheric and ethereal sounding pieces that sound almost like a slightly skewed warped orchestra on the Titanic or that they come from a dance hall back in the early 1900s. That’s possibly two thirds of the album. There are a few other parts that lead into the Basinski sounding pieces that sound very Zoviet France like. Very loosely wound strings being strummed on an instrument that starts to sound not too dissimilar to church bells chiming. However a couple of the pieces (track 2 “Ark” especially ) just don’t feel as though they work. “Ark” sounds predominantly like someone playing very randomly on a xylophone or glockenspiel and not making anything you’d want to hear again. I think this is an example of where some sort of explanation of what the piece is about would help. For all I know he may be trying to convey a particular emotion of a particular part of the story of the nuns drowning which might make it all blindingly obvious as to why it sounds like it does. But without that sort of information it just comes across as a piece that doesn’t work or fit in. As I say there’s a couple of pieces I feel like that about on this album.
Touch are a label whose catalogue is filled with unusual artists/releases and this one is no exception to that. It’s perhaps not up there with other Jeck things I’ve seen (his installation at the Hayward gallery’s “Sonic Boom” exhibition springs to mind) or heard such as his very first Touch release “Loopholes” but it’s still something I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the work ofDavid Bourgoin
Philip Jeck. As always with Touch the wonderful pictures on the cover art are by Jon Wozencroft.