Jan Jelinek and Triosk: 1+3+1

With Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, Textstar, and La Nouvelle Pauvreté, Jan Jelinek has given us three of the most satisfying electronic recordings of recent times. His unerring artistic sense has led him down multiple exploratory paths, but common to all is his trademark ‘moiré' style—sounds blanketed by a gauzy textural cloud—that distinguishes his microhouse tracks so delectably. The brilliant constructions of micro-edits on Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, the delightful invocation of ‘70s soul and disco on Textstar , the stylistic range and ‘group' conception of La Nouvelle Pauvreté—all attest to an imagination and intelligence that have deservedly gained Jelinek admiration and respect. He takes another bold step with 1 + 3 + 1, a collaborative venture with the Sydney-based jazz trio Triosk (Laurence Pike on drums and vibes, keyboardist Adrian Klumpes, and bassist Ben Waples). As the title suggests, Jelinek sent samples and textures to Triosk who then developed them further before returning them to Berlin for final treatments. On paper, it sounds full of promise, one more example of Jelinek's uncanny ability to invigorate his music with fresh and original ideas, but in reality, 1 + 3 + 1 is a disappointment, especially following upon the peaks that were Jelinek's previous releases.

Part of the problem is that Triosk's playing, while admittedly fine as far as jazz trio playing is concerned, isn't compelling or interesting enough on its own (although the trio does concoct an enticing swaying groove on “Theme from Trioskinek”); their playing certainly doesn't come close to matching the level of imagination and invention Jelinek offers on the aforementioned recordings. In fact, the trio's style resembles the kind of acoustic jazz that he presumably plundered and then microscopically stitched together in constructing Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records. And that, in essence, is the problem: too much Triosk, far too little Jelinek. The listener familiar with the incredible transformations he applied to sampled materials on past recordings winces when contemplating the lost potential of 1 + 3 + 1. One imagines the degree to which Jelinek might have transformed the raw material of Triosk's playing into incredibly rich pieces. The major disappointment, then, is that Jelinek is a mere subliminal presence, his presence relegated far too much to the background. “On the Lake,” for example, features his looping textures but they're swallowed by keyboard swirls, bass, and drum patterns, and, even though the atmospheric track flirts with Jelinek's customary style, his contributions remain mere textural enhancements upon Triosk's groove. The opening track, “Mis-leader,” provides another illustration of the problem. It begins promisingly with Jelinek's signature crackles and hiss front and center, but then the trio dominantly enters, indulging in a loose-limbed jazz reminiscent of Filles de Kilimanjaro-era Miles Davis. Pike effectively invokes the spirit of Tony Williams with his aggressive tom-toms and cymbal-driven attack, while Waples adopts Ron Carter's anchoring role and Klumpes echoes Herbie Hancock's empathetic inventiveness.

Overall Jelinek quietly—too quietly—adds to the band's sound but doesn't intrude to such a degree that the recording merits his equal billing (although a couple of tracks—“Neckless” and “Distant Shore”—do feature his contributions more conspicuously and are all the better for it). In other words, had the recording been advertised as a Triosk release with Jelinek billed discreetly as the producer, the result wouldn't be so off-putting. One would have listened to the trio and noted with admiration the producer's subtle yet idiosyncratic enhancements. But giving the collaborators shared billing suggests an equal aural presence and in that regard the balance tips to Triosk. (One might also say that giving equal space to Triosk and Jelinek does the latter an injustice as the group's playing is no match for their partner's level of conceptual invention.) The better scenario would have been for Jelinek to have used Triosk's playing as raw material and to have then worked his customary magic upon it as he has done so distinctively in the past. Pursuing this scenario further, he would have released the material solely under his own name with Triosk credited for having provided the base materials. What we have instead is a novel collaborative concept whose results don't match the level of distinction reached on Jelinek's previous recordings.

November 2003