Jacaszek - Glimmer [Ghostly International - 2011]Glimmer is Polish composer Michał Jacaszek’s seventh outing in a decade that has seen him develop a personal approach fusing classical baroque elements with studio-based dub wisdom. Originally released in October of last year on the Polish independent label Gusstaff, it was snapped up for an international re-release within just two months by the eclectic US label, Ghostly, to become the fifteenth instalment in their SMM series that focuses on more ambient, texture-based albums. And it’s easy to see why as Glimmer manages to be both a polished showcase of Jacaszek’s moody electronic manipulations while retaining wholly accessible slices of folk melodies and classical cool.
Just as most of the nine short tracks presented here take their interchangeable titles from the Victorian poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, they all seem to be aiming for the same affect of tender, slow melancholy. And it’s achieved through an apparently effortless formula: raw material from Małgosia Skotnicka’s solemn harpsichord, Andrzej Wojciechowski’s dark clarinet and Jacaszek’s own classical guitar vignettes and metallophon chimes is gathered with a very close mic that picks up every scrape of string and the impact of each finger pressing home it’s saddest note. These incidental noises combined with the air of the room and the odd bit of static for good measure are filtered and faded in the studio to form regular-as-clockwork brushed rhythms that just about keep each mournful procession moving.
Often it feels like Jacaszek is aiming for an equilibrium where texture and melody threaten to cancel each other out, like on the second piece, Dare-gale, where crumbly distorted tones (that not for the last time remind of Burial’s music minus the beats, bass and voice) give way to battle-weary sequences on harpsichord only to be obscured by surges of ambient noise, like trying to listen to a live performance on a particularly windy hilltop. But for the most part melody wins through, particularly in each of the nine tracks’ end sections that all reliably rouse sad eyes to resolutely look upwards and onwards.
With such accessible and regular swathes of solemnity it’s hard to avoid cynicism and to regard the somewhat homogenous whole as po-faced but with sufficient hints of modern pop production techniques to believe it will one day be subsumed by television stings or even bank adverts, in the same way, say, Boards of Canada or Portishead once were. However, by putting aside such negative conjecture, one can enjoy Jacaszek’s tender chamber music with ease by sinking into its cabaret meets concert hall environments and going with the flow of its dark drifting melodies suffused by organic shuffles and scrapes.Russell Cuzner