Marsen Jules: Yara

Yara, a re-worked and remastered version of the Marsen Jules album that originally appeared on the internet-label Thinner, is emblematic of the lush ambient style Dortmund, Germany-based producer Martin Juhls brought to releases on City Centre Offices and to contributions to Kompakt's Pop Ambient series. The prototypical Marsen Jules piece is both lushly orchestrated—pizzicatto strings and harps abound—and repetitive due to its heavy dependence on loops. One thing in particular makes Yara interesting and that is that the source material for it came less from traditional instrumentation and more from non-instrument sounds; specifically, though it was a recording made at Club Cosmotopia by Yara, a band consisting of Juhls' friends, that he drew upon, the material he actually ended up plundering was the concert's background noises—the opening of a beer can, sounds from the audience, the tuning of an instrument, and so on. Using material typically regarded as tangential—interstitial, even—to the concert material proper, Juhls treated the acoustic fragments like elements of musique concrète and wove them into six variations of highly textured ambient meditations. Interesting too is the fact that, despite the production approach, the resultant material doesn't end up sounding all that radically different from a standard Marsen Jules piece of the kind Juhls would have created using traditional instrument samples. Yes, there is occasional evidence of the ‘real-world' source material—the murmur of voices that forms an undercurrent throughout the fourth variation, for instance—but the inclusion of harp fragments (played by Meike Rath) ensures that Yara isn't a musique concrète exercise in the purest sense of the term. If anything the ambient material Juhls incorporates into the settings simply enhances their already opulent character by expanding the atmosphere level to immense proportions. In fact, the atmosphere swells so much during the sixth variation, it starts to sound like a typhoon advancing upon a park full of picnicking families. There are seven “Yara” treatments—each similar in style yet subtly different too—, with the last, “Yara Variation 8, a lulling, fifteen-minute opus that encapsulates the Marsen Jules style in a single stroke.

June 2010