Jan Jelinek avec the Exposures: La Nouvelle Pauvreté

Under the guises Gramm and Farben, Jan Jelinek has released masterful microhouse on labels like Source, Klang, and ~scape. His subtly radical Personal Rock revealed him to be an artist sensitive to nuance and texture. The ~scape release Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records demonstrated his production and conceptualizing skills, as he built tracks from microscopic aural fragments that rendered the source materials unidentifiable. Last year’s Textstar offered a warmer, more sensual side, its tracks disclosing Jelinek’s sincere affection for 70’s-era soul and disco. His latest offering, La Nouvelle Pauvreté, is a superb addition to the stellar ~scape label, joining previous releases by Kit Clayton, Burnt Friedman, Andrew Peckler, System, and Deadbeat, and three exceptional staedtizism recordings. The conceit of this new work is that Jelinek is joined by an anonymous backing band, the Exposures, and, as one might expect, the mood is expansive, exuberant, and extroverted. Devotees of Jelinek’s previous work shouldn’t be alarmed, however, for he hasn’t forsaken his signature sound. Certainly there is no shortage of sonic detritus—static, hiss, echo, pops, and tics—to satisfy the clicks’n’cuts crowd. But he has now broadened considerably his music’s scope and made a further advance upon an already-distinguished body of work. Jelinek appropriates the recording’s title from a 1980s Belgian anti-fashion movement (whose denizens challenged existing fashion styles by creating boldly angular designs), and in doing so proclaims his wish to transcend the lure of prevailing, if not arguably calcifying, trends in the electronica domain. He does so by adding provocatively elements of classic pop and rock to his music’s soul and dub foundations. Just as he openly acknowledged Isaac Hayes and Donna Summer on Textstar, so too does he cite the likes of Sun Ra, Bryan Ferry, Stevie Wonder, and Throbbing Gristle in the titles and lyrics of these latest tracks.

“Introducing” does exactly that. Hissing and rumbling are overlaid by a gradual accumulation of pizzicato strings, tinkling celeste tones, and assorted other sounds that build to a rapid, sweeping crescendo. A smattering of applause segues into the funky “Music to Interrogate By.” An insistent bass ostinato, cymbal punctuation, and clicking rhythm are joined by an electric piano and snare accents, all enveloped by huge clouds of glitch-like texture. Perhaps the most notable development in Jelinek’s music is the inclusion of his own vocals, typically in the form of a multi-tracked baritone that often evokes a Brazilian feel. “Facelift” marks its first appearance and provides a complementary spoken accompaniment to the textural haze of a stunning percussive groove, intermittent hiccuping pauses arresting its propulsiveness. His deep recitation of the track title “There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)” enhances the underlying drone of static, keyboards, and percussion. The dreamy “My Favorite Shop” builds from the accreting haze of surface noise, humming, and clicking rhythms, and is overlaid by shimmering, aquatic keyboards. An Oval-like base of noise and whistling treble tones in “Trust the Words of Stevie” is grounded by Jelinek’s recitation. “If’s And’s And But’s,” the track most reminiscent of Textstar, begins with a bold sample of strings, followed by a propulsive bass and soulful drum pattern. To this relatively sparse core Jelinek adds delicate, floating lines of sampled strings and flutes and bell-like percussion accents. La Nouvelle Pauvreté closes on a somewhat unsettling, discordant note with “A Waste Land,” a dark dirge clothed in hiss overlaid by softly sung vocals.

La Nouvelle Pauvreté is a more ‘difficult’ work in some ways compared to its predecessors. Because its mood is darker and its preoccupation with dance rhythms less overt, it may be less satisfying for those wanting another Textstar. Regardless, the impeccably crafted La Nouvelle Pauvreté evidences a notable advancement upon his signature sound; certainly he hasn’t discarded his former approach but has broadened its sweep to now encompass a richer field. Merging the hermetic qualities of Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, the extroverted soulfulness of Textstar, and the classic strains of vocal-based rock and pop, La Nouvelle Pauvreté constitutes another significant development in Jelinek’s impressive body of work.

June 2003