Jan Jelinek & Computer Soup
Improvisations And Edits

Tokyo, 09/26/2001





Jan Jelinek teams up in a Tokyoite September of 2001 with the trio of Computer Soup aka Satoru Ori, Osamu Okubo and Kei Ikeda, and they create a highly experimental, but at times wonderfully mellow blend of Glitch Ambient with a strong flavor of warped, ebullient sound effects. That's the short story of this release, which alienates fans of Jelinek to this day. It is Jan Jelinek's Pomme Fritz, referring to The Orb's most experimental release in 1994 of that name which bewildered thousands of fans who longed for a continuation of the trippy Ambient House formula the band helped establish. Improvisations And Edits, Tokyo 09/26/2001, released in 2002, refers in two ways to the concept of contingency: for one, it is also referenced in the album title that Jelinek and the trio rely heavily on improvisations and the dynamics of an unplanned flow. And secondly, the performance takes place in real-time. This is no transatlantic project where Computer Soup leads the pace and Jelinek puts the finishing touches on the compositions as he did on the album 1 + 3 + 1 with the Australian band Triosk; in fact, all people involved really met while Jelinek was on tour in Japan and created this work literally in a hurry. Such hectic schedules usually cause a lackluster release, but this doesn't apply to this – admittedly quite harsh and spiky – release. The improvised live set contains seven songs and an unnamed bonus track. It's no secret that I'm very fond of Japanese Ambient artists, but the unique selling point of this set isn't the particular participation of Computer Soup rather than the reoccurrence of certain themes and tonalities throughout the set. The musicians remix their ideas and tone sequences incessantly, which leads me to the presumption that the basic premise of this live set was carved out before its start, so that each artist has at least a rough idea of the style, mood and tonality of the tracks. The term Edits in the title furthermore suggests quite a bit of post-production and selective processes. Speaking of styles and moods: Improvisations And Edits is a warm and mellow Ambient release with beautiful Glitch fragments, static noise bursts and real trumpet intersections. However, there are times where it is the exact opposite, mainly effect-laden, overdriven and bouncy with a lack of melodies and focus, so be aware of these specific tracks.

Launching with
Straight Life, this collaborative performance already depicts all the typical ingredients of the release, but puts them into relaxing surroundings. A filtered pulsating guitar loop is introduced, accompanied by clicks and dubby bass whirls after a minute. An iridescently jumpy theme played by Computer Soup on an electric piano is introduced, spiced with glistening bells and Blues-evoking trumpets. Permanent crackles, radio frequencies and hazy pink noise camouflage the occasional cacophony. The final minute gets even deeper, as blurry loops loaded with phantasmagoric sparkles round off this track, leaving a good first impression. This is a great opener, but it is clear from the beginning that the listener needs to be interested in Glitch Ambient and the glinting ornaments that waft in-between the trumpet notes and jumpy electric piano bits. Up next is Ballads which starts with a frosty, high-pitched eruption whose sustain fades out ever so slowly, making the listener dizzy and almost deaf. After 45 seconds, it leaves room for attractively pulsating sparkles, acoustic guitar fragments, static noise molecules and various crackles. The atmosphere is laid back, and the constant interplay between space and sound vivid. If you can successfully tolerate the audacious acidity of the opening string, a bubbling Ambient track awaits you that creates a nice flow with no changes or unexpected additions. It is really meditative and yet bustling of crackling activities. The following track is the notorious Hot Barbecue that consists of shedloads of 8-bit sounds, laser effects and wonky sound waves. As if these devices weren't enough, they are augmented for the worse by nerve-racking, claustrophobic trumpet layers that mesh in spine-tingling ways, painting a total chaos. Fans of early Merzbow tunes will clap their hands to this, but virtually everyone shall shy away from this horrible, purposefully grim composition of the damned. After this terrible track, Barbecue's Version is an encore, but much better and gentler. Repetitive bleeps, oscillating echoes of wobbling bass, a thicket of spiraling arcane synth pads and vibrating drones create a listening experience that is much more pleasant, but then again, anything is more pleasant in comparison to Hot Barbecue. However, the latter version delivers an ambiguous state of minimalism: it contains no melodies, but shedloads of intertwined sound effects which themselves are, at the end of the day, minimal and harsh, but also quite a bit warm. Still, this track can be considered the second dud of the performance. From this point on, Improvisations And Edits gets better and gentler while retaining its quirkiness.

The New Anthem, the longest track with almost seven and a half minutes, starts with quick staccato clicks and a delicate, majestic trumpet melody with a long sustain. The best parts, however, are the cherubic synth whirls in the background and the accompanying gorgeously dreamy sweeps of the same kind. They glimmer and shine in the distance all the while exhilarative but perfectly underlining beeps and pulses are interwoven. It's an utterly beautiful track that shows the superior, solemn side of the collaboration. It's really the standout track with not a single pesky element in there. Watch What Happens is a bit more retrograde with backwards played hazy loops of big band records that resemble the characteristic traits of Jan Jelinek's Clicks & Cuts opus Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records of 2001. These synth washes glow of nostalgia and are completed by organic clicks and shattering crystalline structures. It's the most glaring example of a loop-based track, and there are no bass lines or strange detracting particles attached. Another comforting track that is even memorable after the first contact due to the reversed loops. The penultimate The Post-Anthem is the coruscating pinnacle of all the improvisations. It is basically the unvarnished presentation of the swirling backing synth of The New Anthem, allowing the listener to be fully immersed by their illuminated aura, the positive vibe, the sparkling scintillae of rapturous bliss. It's a magnificent track that leaves all of the jazzy devices behind, concentrating solely on the melodious euphony of the synths. A mind-blowing piece that is followed by an unnamed hidden track of 10 minutes runtime, but as it is often the case, half of it is dead silence. This hidden track is actually pretty good and allows a closer look at the backing synths of the opener Straight Life, so both of these tracks are clearly related. While the loop is just one second long and is repeated incessantly, added things such as electric piano hooks and slight tonal alterations change it just the tiniest bit. 

Improvisations And Edits is a mixed bag, that's for sure, but the good, mellow sides outweigh the bitcrushed, flangered and screeching sound effect orgies, at least for me. The jazzy avantgarde peculiarities of Computer Soup are much more perceptible than Jelinek's added clicks, pulses and hazy filters, but in the end, he may personify the more important part as he silkens the tracks and is responsible for the mellower sections. Curiously enough, this album is a different, but similar take on Jelinek's aforementioned Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, as the fizzling compositions of Improvisations And Edits are definitely related, if also much more demanding. The obvious highlight is the brightly glowing The Post-Anthem, but even the preceding take The New Anthem is a beautiful Glitch Ambient composition that lets Jazz and Ambient parts coalesce in a soothing, relaxing way. These tracks that lack euphoria or other strong emotions are the band's best, as they float along gently, but never without meaning or an attached creative arbitrariness. The other extreme is Hot Barbecue with pulsating bass wobbles and nerve-racking effect-laden whirlwinds. Maybe my glasses are rose-tinted and I'm not critical enough, but even these sound collages are tolerable in the given context, as they lack the melodies, but cannot be considered minimal due to the incessant stabs and bubbling bits. Improvisations And Edits as a whole is only valuable for die-hard fans of Jan Jelinek or Computer Soup, but the two Anthem compositions and the intro track are definitely lush enough to be considered by Ambient listeners in general. If you only want to pick one tune, pre-listen to The Post-Anthem, the most melodious and heartwarming tune with no quirkiness attached.




Ambient Review 107: Jan Jelinek & Computer Soup – Improvisations And Edits Tokyo, 09/26/2001 (2002). Originally published on XYZ. XY, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.