Mike Jedlicka / Cloudburst: Tabor / NW Passage EP
Optic Echo

Mike Jedlicka and Cloudburst pool two originals and two remixes for this twelve-inch release of ambient-drone pieces. Issued in a hand-numbered limited edition of 160 copies, the release has the distinction of being Erik K Skodvin's number seven pick in his albums' selections for 2010. Raised in the Chicago area, Jedlicka studied electronic music at the University of Iowa before studying speech-language pathology at grad school in Florida, where he also learned to play didgeridoo, shakuhachi, tabla drums, and sitar. Now based in Portland, Oregon, he produces music and heads up Optic Echo. To create his heavily textured Cloudburst pieces, Tim Westcott works with found sounds, field recordings, and other materials, and has had material appear on Resting Bell, Nueva Forma, and Slow Flow.

Jedlicka opens the EP with “Tabor,” a crepuscular ambient drone whose exotic touches and mournful vocalizing (by Sara Stejskal) nudge the material, respectively, into Indian and classical vocal music territories. Slowed to a near crawl, the piece exudes a time-suspended feel—all the better for allowing Stejskal's voice and Walter Maenhout's bowed bass to extricate themselves out of the ambient mass. Jedlicka's “edit” of cloudburst's “NW Passage,”  a thick, multi-textured industrial churn of muffled field recordings, follows. Turn the disc over and Cloudburst's original, “NW Passage,” wraps the grinding screech and rhythmic clatter of a field-recorded train in a wavering blanket of muted electronic sounds. While the squeals aren't easy on the ears, the piece nevetheless needs to be played loud (or heard through headphones) in order for the melding of natural and electronic sounds to be fully appreciated. “Tabor” is a standout, but Westcott's “edit” of “Tabor” follows close behind. It also emphasizes the real-world qualities of Jedlicka's original, with the focus initially shifting from a human voice to rain splatter and steely oscillations. Westcott takes his time, however, and gradually lets the vocal elements seep back into the picture. A larger number of ghosts seem to rise from the disc's grooves during this closing piece, even more, perhaps, than during Jedlicka's own version. Aromatic drones seem to waft gently throughout the room, though that might purely be the opiated effect the material has on the receptive listener.

March 2011