Valiska & Zenjungle
A Changing Light






If light manages to travel through galaxies and across several black holes, chances are that transoceanic endeavors on Earth can be easily transformed into successful collaborations. What a curious sentence to start a review – any review even – but all the more concise when it becomes crystal clear, both in hindsight and in view to this release, that the power of light has been the dominant force of Calgary, Canada-based multi-instrumentalist and CJSW radio host Krzysztof Sujata aka Valiska on the one hand, and saxophonist Phil Gardelis aka Zenjungle on the other hand all along, the latter of whom calls Athens, Greece his rightful home. This is not the first collaborative effort of either artist, but nonetheless the first teamwork where the concept of light is adamantly realized, diffracted and then broken. A Changing Light is an EP (or mini album) of four tracks released in December 2014 on Kate Carr’s label Flaming Pines. The haunting film noir timbre of Zenjungle’s sax meets the granular hoarfrost cascadium of Valiska’s aural architecture. Built to be destroyed, caught on disc in order for this cycle to repeat ad infinitum, A Changing Light is a contemplative affair whose increasing fusillade of uncertainty functions as a pluvial plasticizer; even the diehard Glitch fan and connoisseur of chaotic microcosms will see his soul emptied once the duo’s retrosternal reticulation percolates through the soul. With the old adage “Where there’s shadows, there must be light” in mind, I observe and eventually absorb A Changing Light.


The optimist says that darkness derives from light, the pessimist phrases this observation vice versa, but whoever is right in the end, there is no denial that the darker substance is prone to remain as close to the incandescent source as it possibly can. This also happens in the gateway to Valiska & Zenjungle’s collaboration, the mephitic/chlorotic Derive. Right from the get-go, fragilely elaborated mysticism and staggering sine tone gigantomachy become enmeshed. They may not clash, the diffractive fractals might not even notice each other’s presence, but the ensuing parallax peritoneum sure enough augments the power of the respective force. Despite the staggering faultline bursts and their crushing low frequency eruptions, there is plenty of room for New Age interstices such as crystalline syringa syrinxes and bubbling afterglows. Reversely played piano prongs, electric metalization, an omnipresent recondite sustain and pulsating jitters create a somewhat mercurial mélange, but the cauterized sirens and caustic crackles interpolate the uneasiness and even reach through the crevasses of nonentity, those intermediate stations where the aural patterns cannot cause havoc otherwise. The adjacent Seawards is similarly structured, although it is a tad more uplifting, probably due to the positive connotation that is evoked by its title. Phil Gardelis’ saxophone seems to be in the trenchant limelight here, whirling through Krzysztof Sujata’s lanthanoid punctilio: dusky jitters and rufescent flares serve as annihilating sparks, true enough, but benthic wisps and viscoelastic particles protrude the piano-accentuated pericarp and reach a certain leeway; that the tide is ever-rising and threatens to swallow the light… no time for this nagging premonition!


Nightwinds meanwhile proves to be a sanctuary, but for entirely different reasons. Valiska’s piano and Zenjungle’s saxophone are hopelessly entangled, gyring around each other’s physiognomy, waiting to break through the sphere of action in order to take over for good. As I have implied, this is not exactly one’s archetypal concept of a sanctuary, I give you that, but a decrease in static noise particles and toxic titration processes allows for an astonishingly long yet varied conflation of each artist’s signature instrument. Since the textures are now seemingly unprocessed and presented “as is,” the melodies all of a sudden prove their dominance. Fittingly nocturnal and residing in a contemplative sphere that becomes narrower and restricting once the various stacked layers of the saxophone’s Middle Eastern pentatonicism try to break free, Nightwinds opens up to the idea of twilight. Hued in saffron-sepia tones, it so happens that isolation and remoteness are oozing out of every note… and with them the bewildering realization of their impossibility due to the array of bustling layers. The closer Passage reverses things once again, and possibly for good if the listener favors a Hollywood ending of the Golden Era. During a runtime of more than eight minutes, Valiska & Zenjungle revisit the ideas and incidental encounters of the previous three tracks, neither without rephrasing nor paraphrasing the multitudinous hooks, segues and whistles. Within this amethystine nexus, the concept of despair and loneliness that comes with Gardelis’ saxophone sequences is now caulked by almost ebullient streamlets and rivers. The Candela value increases, the prolonged piano chromaticity reflects light and becomes a source of light itself. Pluvial but ultimately solacing, the long trip that is Passage lets the listener breathe light; naturally, it is a changing light as the album title reveals, but offers a nutritious, quasi-diaphanous endpoint.


A Changing Light shows the power of a concept EP or mini album that doesn’t derive (!) from two artists spinning the wheel of fortune in order to find the catch phrase or encompassing entity of the day for their latest release. No, the concept of light – no matter how ubiquitous it is in all fields of knowledge, and regardless of the tiresome flood of works where the word light appears in one way or another – is rightfully claimed by Valiska & Zenjungle as it has been there all along throughout their works. This is not a reviewer’s semi-erudite attempt to attach a catchy label to the artists’ bodies of work. I’m not making a policy out of a tendency. There are other topics in the duo’s works as well. Both have released albums whose predominant slogan is that of a travelog: Valiska has released Shifts (2013) as he encountered various landscapes during comparatively rough times; Zenjungle came up with the polylayered Leaving Stations (2014) and graced it with a spectacular front artwork. But these varying landmarks find their analog complement in A Changing Light. The advertised change is one driving factor that is closely connected to said light. I prefer the latter term for a reason, since the light shows the purposely broken and willfully disturbed conception of each artist’s tracks. Even though Valiska & Zenjungle refrain from producing light music, their results are constantly delightful, and this is, at the end of the day, a delineation that should hit both the optimist’s and pessimist’s spot.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 403: Valiska & Zenjungle – A Changing Light (2014). Originally published on Jan. 7, 2015 at