Jan Jelinek & Masayoshi Fujita – Schaum (2016)

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Jan Jelinek and Masayoshi Fujita first worked together in 2010. Since then, they have performed a number of live electro-acoustic shows across the globe. Jelinek and Fujita’s music is almost entirely improvised. Fujita’s setup consists of a vibraphone prepared with various percussion instruments, objects, and toys; Jelinek works entirely with electronics, tinkering with analog synthesizers and samplers.

Jelinek and Fujita’s latest collaboration is entitled Schaum, German for froth or foam. The duo’s collaboration is a fascinating one. The vibraphone’s pure tone — modified, distorted, and joined by other objects — make up the florid and natural side of the music. Jelinek’s contribution adds a more concrete and mechanical tone, which he calls his “collaboration with machines.”

In a letter to Fujita, Jelinek details the source of his inspiration and the vision he has for the project: “I am fascinated by the idea of installing clear minimalist forms amid such luxuriant tropical growth,” he writes. The concept of “minimalist forms” is aptly fitting to Jelinek’s work, as he’s best known for sampling on a microscopic scale, effectively reducing jazz and dub records to mere clicks and cuts.

It’s easy to get lost in the foliage that Jelinek and Fujita have created. Jelinek’s sample loops are delicately crafted. They’re soft and somber enough to be interesting, yet simple enough to be hypnotic. Fujita’s instrument is starkly different in timbre, which allows it to cut through the whir of Jelinek’s drones and loops with ease. Fujita’s improvisations shift with the mood of each track; his playing is dense and sporadic on “Urub” and later blends into the background on the album’s closer, “Parades.”

Schaum is one of the most fascinating and entrancing pieces of music I have heard in a very long time. Jelinek’s decision to collaborate with Fujita has added enormous depth and complexity to his work.

Favorite Track: “Helio

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