Jan Jelinek: Sowing Wild Oats
- Words: Eric Smillie
Berlin-based producer Jan Jelinek has always presented himself as a sound designer; he's even gone so far as to say he's "not a musician." Hacking away at tiny, clicking samples and carefully arranging them over deep, slow basslines, he made a name for himself as a master of the sequencer with 2001's Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, an album that definitively shaped techno in the early Aughties. But recently, Jelinek's love affair with the sequencer seems to have waned; on his new album, he does away with it altogether.
"Over the years, I've found the idea of programmed music fascinating, because the composing process is so far from the traditional ideas of music-making," he explains. "All these romantic clichés of virtuosity and authenticity are gone–music is made like graphic design. [But] after focusing on that for a few years, I'm a bit tired of this kind of work with sequencers that organize the whole arrangement."
Jelinek built his new album, for Pole's Berlin label ~Scape, from tracks he recorded quickly in single takes on a modest bit of live equipment. "Originally, this setup was a compromise," he confesses. "Last year, I had to give up my old studio, and it took a while for me to find a new one. My tracks were the result of not being able to use the sequencer yet nevertheless trying to reach a musical goal."
He may sound tentative, but Jelinek has plenty of experience with live improvisation. On 2005's Kosmischer Pitch, he looped Krautrock samples on his computer while jamming on mixer, effects, and synths for hours at a time. Following the lead of the '70s bands that his samples honor, he picked his favorite bits to make up the album's final tracks. Snuggling up even closer to rock, he hit the road with drummer Hanno Leichtmann and guitarist Andrew Pekler as the Kosmischer Pitch Band, manipulating loops, guitaret (similar to a thumb piano), bass synth, and effects pedals in the group's noisy, effects-heavy improvisations.
One can't help but conclude that Jelinek's ultimate goal is to leave his ball and chain, the sequencer, at home. But techno heads need not fear: "I see my step into improvising as one that doesn't exclude programmed music," he says.
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