TO:36 – Philip Jeck “Surf”

7 tracks –

Track list:

1. Demolition
2. Box Of Lamb
3. Surf Finger
4. Spirits Up
5. 1986 (Frank Was 70 Years Old)
6. Tilting
7. I Just Wanted To Know

AT A PLACE that is yours or mine. It is morning, evening, anytime. You are driving to work, to a theatre, home. You are in a crowd or all alone. You are in Rio, Chicago, Sydney, on a plane to Madras, a ferry to Dublin. You are at college, in a rest home; the children are sleeping, the grandparents are on the phone. You have your own time, own place. You listen to whatever comes out of now, the past. The sound can drip with well won laurels of acceptance, of transience, of longevity. There is a touch, a method that changes, adapts with the mood of the music and times. The touch is always personal, passionate: it embraces, repels, passes, returns.

Like blurry postcards of someplace you’ve never been, or a fleeting memory of someone you’ve never met, translated into sound. A sound so warm and thick, familiar and inviting, that it transports you to a sonic universe where a skipping record becomes your footsteps, and a repeated crackly phrase becomes the wind through the trees. Easily one of the most transcendentally perfect records ever.


Aquarius (USA):

Finally, after waiting for ages, Philip Jeck’s totally genius Surf album gets reissued. Oddly enough, perfectly coinciding with what might be his best release since Surf, the simply titled 7, which sonically sounds remarkably like Surf (see the review elsewhere on this list). For those who aren’t familiar with his work, Jeck is a UK experimental turntablist who extracts sounds from old battered turntables like an archaeologist excavating some ancient vinyl burial site, using surface noise, skips and crackles, to weave dreamy sepiatone soundscapes of underwater waltzes and pastoral murk. Surf is quite possibly the perfect realization of Jeck’s sonic vision. Sinister loops and minor key melodies slither through blurred landscapes of sound, rickety and decaying, shimmery and indistinct. Like blurry postcards of someplace you’ve never been, or a fleeting memory of someone you’ve never met, translated into sound. A sound so warm and thick, familiar and inviting, that it transports you to a sonic universe where a skipping record becomes your footsteps, and a repeated crackly phrase becomes the wind through the trees. Easily one of the most transcendentally perfect records ever.
The notion of turntablism may be associated with flashy, deck-hopping scratch gymnastics, but the use of the record player as an instrument harks back to a less ostentatious tradition of music making. John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Schaeffer, and James Tenney recognized records and turntable mechanisms as manipulable sound sources. In essence, sampling began with the real-time deployment of gramophones in performance by theseartists and academics.

Philip Jeck, like peers Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, and Martin Tetreault, legitimizes the turntable as a musical instrument. On SURF, Jeck lifts sounds from old vinyl and treats them in fascinating ways. The fragile melody of “Box of Lamb” arises not from direct quotes but from a well-considered reconstruction of the source-vinyl sounds. Preserved pops, crackles, skips, and scratches lend complex rhythmic character to the profound loop-based atmospheres of “Demolition,” “Spirits Up,” and the loping, almost funky “I Just Wanted to Know.” “1986” works a Woody Woodpecker sample, an insistent guitar phrase, and swatches of nostalgic music into audio bricolage brimming with humor and analog warmth. “Surf Finger,” electro-acoustic gamelan music masterfully cemented with effects, and the vertiginous CD-skip simulation of “Tilting” provide SURF’s most intriguing moments. [gg/]

VITAL [Netherlands]:

This is the second CD by Philip Jeck to be released on the fabulous Touch label. The first was titled ‘Loopholes’ and somehow failed to grab me like this one. Perhaps I just didn’t hear it at the right time. Philip Jeck (together with Lol Sargent) won the 1993 Time Out Performance Award for their ‘Vinyl Requiem’ for 120 dansette record players, 12 slide projectors and 2 movie projectors. The music on this CD was composed using record players, tape machines, Casio keyboards and effects. Jeck is a true alchemist exploring the perimeters of sound, and while some of his compositions are very reminiscent of some of the material released by Zoviet France (Tracks 1 and 6 for instance), others retain a deep mysterious colour even after several and a half listenings. Records are sped up and slowed down, run through snappy delays and augmented with minimal keyboard pads producing a wide range of sonic architectures. ‘Box Of Lamb’ sounds like underwater rockslides, or slow swells of sound surf. Then there’s a slight bongo fury at the start of ‘Surf Finger’ which decays into an orchestra under fire from an industrial sandblaster on valium. Erratic, indistinct shapes convolute and unwrap themselves from a bass pulse – blurred voices try to share secrets but the lines are crossed and they reach their conclusions before they realise their subject. Track 5 ‘1986 (Frank was 70 years old)’ is a jumpcut journey from one side of a city to the other – angels with upside-down faces live at the edges – gravel chants, chancing gravity. The final track on this release ‘I Just Wanted To Know’ starts reassuringly and then develops as a soundtrack for the final stroll down that last corridor – gentle, warm and safe. The peerless Jon Wozencroft created the cover, which like the music, is imbued with a deep sense of nostalgia and comfortable familiarity. The images he uses resonate with all the clarity of archetypes – like going home. (MP)

Exclaim! [Canada]:

Surf is the second CD from the British experimenter whose sound manipulations begin with record players and tape machines. His work “Vinyl Requiem” (with Lol Sargent) for 120 Dansette record players was awarded Time Out magazine’s 1993 Performance Award. On these seven pieces (many commissioned for theatre companies) orchestras, rhythms, voices and rhythms (“Surf Finger”) are borrowed, manipulated or run backwards (the ethereal tones of “Box Of Lamb” and “1986 (Frank Was 70 Years Old)”). Jeck’s resultant textures place him among others of the British post-industrial scene, rather than the mixology of avant turntablist Christian Marclay. The captivating layered frequencies of “Spirits Up” recalls Zoviet France or Rapoon at their most mystical moments, while the clanging guitar loops of “Demolition” recall the grittier tracks of Gilbert & Lewis’s Dome. And Jeck is not just looking for musical sounds as vinyl crackles are amplified and mixed à la Panasonic and others. (Chris Twomey)

Resonance ‘UK]:

…An absence of the sudden jump-cut allows the music to develop gradually. The same is true of Philip Jeck’s Surf. Jeck has worked with turntables in the group Slant and with choreographer Laurie Booth but is best known for Vinyl Requiem, his performance for 180 record players (stocks in junk shops still haven’t recovered!). His second CD serves up seven interesting slices of lo-fi vinyl collage. Unlike Bastien, Jeck processes and shapes his loops, presumably with his reel-to-reel tape machines. The music is less obviously generated by vinyl and is closer to current electronica. Highlights include “1986 (Frank was 70 years old)”, which pitches punky textures with woodpecker sounds and a backwards orchestra – and could that be a fragment of Suicide’s “Dream baby dream” on “Spirits up”? That both artists have created distinct styles is testimony to the fact that avant-turntablism continues to move rapidly out of the influence of Pioneer Christian Marclay. (Paul Hood)

Fluctuat [France, web]:

Le protagoniste joue des platines et les passe au travers deffets multiples de réverb ou delay, créant des sons chauds et humains. Les disques de platinistes sont légions ces temps-ci mais en voici un nouveau qui se situe bien loin des travaux de ses prédécesseurs Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, Stock Hausen & Walkman, et donne une dimension nouvelle au genre… Plus humaine, organique, réèlle. Son cut-up musical est très mature, et le résultat en est plus ambient que concassé, plus hypnotique que déstructuré et ainsi on a plus de facilité à plonger dans cet album que dans dautres exploitant le vinyle comme materiau premier. Le style avait besoin dun souffle nouveau et le voici en la personne de Philip Jeck. [Philippe Petit]