Jana Irmert - The Soft Bit [Fabrique - 2021]
Berlin-based sound artist, Jana Irmert, returns for a third time to Fabrique Records with her latest album, The Soft Bit. Composed around the sonic interpolations of physical textures, The Soft Bit is an interesting play on the textures themselves. As stated by Irmert, "the processed sounds resulting from hard materials would often have soft and tonal qualities whereas those made from "soft" materials like water or air would ultimately be of percussive or harsh and noisy character." When listening to this album, this statement makes one really inquisitive about what source material was used, and which was "the soft bit" - the source or the processed sound.
Like a lightly toasted piece of fresh bread, The Soft Bit combines a delicate, almost airy softness with a crispy, sparse, delightful finish to make pieces that both tantalize and provide comfort. With the source material providing some oscillating and undulating textures, the 8 compositions on display provide movement in the stillness and help to inflate the surrounding bubble of encompassing softness. Like the lightning inside a cloud, this juxtaposition helps each texture to reinforce the other and also lends itself to bringing the pieces together to form a cohesive whole. Irmert composed these separately without a concept at the start, but the materials and processes had other ideas. In addition to these processed sounds, Irmert works with field recordings to build depth and tension. The eponymous "The Soft Bit" uses these field recordings to the fullest, creating a taut, thrilling piece that puts forth cinematic overtones. This is no surprise, as Irmert has been nominated for an Icelandic Edda Award for her sound design on Jóhann Jóhannsson's film Last and First Men. Much of The Soft Bit is on the quieter, passive end of things, but Irmert uses this to enhance the album's character. Playing hard to get makes the listener earn their keep, and really dig into each composition.
The Soft Bit is a gorgeous collection of gauzy goodness with crispy flourishes and rolling oscillations mixed in for good measure. Allowing the textures and layers to head in different directions (while still remaining cohesive), the album grows and expands slowly, surely, and specifically. Well crafted and well cared for, The Soft Bit is a fantastically pleasant experience and one will discover many new characteristics with repeated listens.Paul Casey