Philip Jeck - 7 [Touch - 2003]Philip Jeck’s explorations in the realm of vinyl loops and crackle continue to delight, but a few reservations have to be made. The 7 tracks on his 7th CD (randomly titled 7, unless there’s a hidden meaning I'm not aware of) testify to Jeck’s ongoing fascination with the vinyl medium, the crackles and the grooves, and the simultaneous looping of several records to obtain exciting new music and remarkable sounds.
You won’t be identifying any tunes here; the brief snippets Jeck uses are not meant as references to the treasure chest of music history. Record excerpts reveal new characteristics when looped, played at the wrong speed, and confronted with the locked grooves of the vinyl on another turntable. As you can read in any text about Philip Jeck, he once famously created a Vinyl requiem with over a hundred turntables looping and locking all at once. On his recorded output, he favours a smaller scale.David Bauwens
The release of 7 was sped up by a couple of months (the cover art claims it was released in 2004) to counter the ‘damage’ done by Host, released on Sub Rosa in autumn 2003 and mysteriously withdrawn within a matter of weeks (copyright problems, apparently). Host featured three live cuts (with some parts straight out of Stoke, but also a glorious climax somewhere halfway) and an interesting video of the master at work.
As a follow-up to 2002’s magnificent Stoke album, 7 is a bit underwhelming at first. It is hard to pinpoint why, and indeed the idea I had of it being less eventful and less captivating from start to finish had to be revoked after repeated listenings. Let’s rather say that its qualities are less immediately noticeable, or it could be – it seems likely, really – that I have heard so much Jeck that I have become too familiar with his sound palette to be able to fully appreciate new work. Also, considering the progress Jeck was making in the use of vocals – just compare the rather crudely incorporated choir in Vinyl coda IV to the ravishing slowed-down gospel/soul (?) singer in Pax (on Stoke) – it is a bit of a letdown that 7 doesn’t feature them at all. What I also miss is something like the percussive build-up of Open (another great Stoke piece), which was repeated on Host’s longest live extract, where it evolves into something violent and glorious.
All this probably sounds more depreciating than it is meant to be, for there are still plenty of magical moments that keep me coming back to 7, such as the jolly loop in Now you can let go and the slow majesty of the 10-minute closer Veil. Remarkable but slightly frustrating is the center piece Bush hum, where Jeck suddenly extends his technique by playing the turntable itself. It is both puzzling and exhilarating to hear the artist tapping into a new vein like this, but the relative harshness of the result unfortunately disrupts the flow of the album. I got used to it with repeated listening though.
In conclusion, despite the reservations I have voiced just now, I must stress that in the end 7 is – of course – a very good album. Not Jeck’s masterpiece – that would still be the aforementioned Stoke, until further notice – but a worthy addition to the catalogue. If in the end 7 does deserve a 5-star rating, think of Stoke as an A++. Here’s hoping that Touch will reissue his début Loopholes, as they just did the excellent Surf from 1999. Meanwhile, copies of Host will probably be lying around at your local supermarket; you are advised to pick it up before it vanishes completely.