Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek
Do You Know Otahiti?






One of the most wondrous questions to ever appear in the Exotica genre, Do You Know Otahiti? by the Berlin-based duo of vibraphonist Masayoshi Fujita and sound collage luminary Jan Jelinek is another revelation in regard to how the Exotica genre can be moved forward in today’s millennial groves. This four-track EP is their second collaborative effort after 2010’s delicately contemplative full-length album Bird, Lake, Objects, with both works being released on Jelinek’s own Faitiche label. More information can be found on the label’s website. It is always delightfully hard to place Jelinek's work in the right section of this website: Is it Ambient? Is it Exotica? His latter work phase almost always finds its way into the Exotica section, be it in the form of the fictional Society For The Emancipation Of Sampling and the superb sample collage called Circulations (2009) which merges Les Baxter’s Jungle River Boat and other cleverly camouflaged classics with an abundance of field recordings, or the EP-length follow-up More Circulations (2012) which intermixes avantgarde mad man Michel Magne’s guiro-laden rhythm of his take on Ary Barroso’s classic Bahia off the flamboyant LP Tropical Fantasy (1962) with colorful cacophonies and drowsy marimba paroxysms.


Do You Know Otahiti? is a different orchid altogether, featuring tracks that come from entirely different directions and work phases, but are fittingly united by a tropical bond and a depicted heat that is as hammock-friendly as it is overwhelmingly humid. Side A comprises of two live performances of Fujita and Jelinek, both of them improvised and not based on any album material, whereas side B offers the eponymous title track and a seemingly unrelated addendum. The track Do You Know Otahiti? has an interesting story, as it is based on a German radio play from 2012 where Jelinek was involved in. This arrangement is then accentuated by snippets from that play as well as silkened string washes. But even notwithstanding this nucleus, each of the four pieces is enormously intense, compatible to Space-Age timbres and the oxymoronically truthful plastic spirit of Exotica. 


"You want me to tell you about that magic location of Otahiti? Well sonny, here's the news…"


The first two tracks comprise of electro-acoustic live performances of the duo, and while they do specifically target the overarching Otahiti-related topos, they are nonetheless the EP’s exotic nuts and bolts, unleashing a gorgeous mélange of mellow underbrushes, verdured coppices and tropical thickets. The improvised and untitled opener is recorded live at the Frameworks Festival in Munich, Germany on March 24, 2012. Spanning more than eight minutes, this piece is the gateway to a valley of diffusely overdriven electric bass blebs whose magnanimously alkaline physiognomy drones almost brazenly through the whorl of blackness. Soft vinyl-like crackles and bit-crushed bounces ameliorate the phlegmatic soil further. More of a cylon-oid copse than a vigorous jungle, the setting feels as heavy as a heatstroke.


Even though the teutonic recalcitrance remains present throughout the duration, it becomes clear that one cannot spell recalcitrance without trance, and this is exactly the refreshing counterpoint Masayoshi Fujita injects via his signature instrument. His vibraphone unchains polyphonic coils, the occasional but ever-seducing pentatonic droplets as well as laid-back timbres of the Space-Age and Lounge days of yore. The oscillation between comparably dry martelato tones and eclectically reverberated vibrato afterglows works well in the sizzling mirage of Jelinek’s beat-oid structure. A further ennoblement takes place in the shape of gorgeously whirling synth serpentines whose spiraling cascades and cavalcades of blurred euphony cover the last murky remainders of the backdrop. Warbled cicadas, siren-like screeches and frizzling cymbals round off a representation that is as intensely hot as it is aquiver with dewy dazes.


The second track is recorded at the AvantJazz festival in Barcelona on August 22, 2012, runs for over nine minutes and tropicalizes the jungular phantasmagoria farther than ever. Whereas the live performance in Munich was eminently dense and supercharged with veils of thermal heat and scirocco gales, this arrangement on Spanish soil is stupefyingly sepia-tinged yet similarly sweltering and scorching, with the aural sunbeams reaching every fissured alcove of the figurative diorama. Gyrating between a hallucinatory pandemonium and humid heterodynes, the intertwinement of layers features heavily pointillistic vesicles, moist gurgles, glistening glockenspiel apparitions and, probably most importantly, an enchanting as well as tranquilizing muffled marimba-resembling bamboo loop that feels wooden and moss-grown on the one hand, and liquedous and hollow on the other.


Dice shakers, shell percussion and twinkling specks are placed in front of a whitewashed tape hiss. Even though the marimba-like loop – which could also be a perfectly pitched down steel pan or goblet drum – is the main aorta of the composition, repeated ad infinitum and only stoppable by the temporal boundaries of the track, the side stages are filled with alloys and allures of the spacey and exotic kinds. The live performance in Barcelona does not embrace the traveling subject per se despite its seemingly accessible appearance; it rather feels like a feverish dream, a miniscule malaria melodrama, a dengue daze. The kaleidoscopic arabesques and orbiting tittles have humidity and humiliation spilled all over them. Listen to this on a hot summer day, and you are immediately transported into a languorous turmoil.


Side B of the EP features two studio tracks by Jan Jelinek and links back to the main topic, the mysterious wonderland of Otahiti which is, one presumes, more of a place in the heart or a simultaneous gallimaufry of multitudinous destinations all around the globe rather than an allocatable geographical landmark somewhere south of Tuvalu, but who am I to pinpoint the definite coordinates? The third track overall is the eponymous travelog Do You Know Otahiti? and blends segues and vignettes of previously unreleased tidbits with the spoken word samples of various travelers, as taken from the German radio collage Kennen Sie Otahiti? from 2012 which Jelinek was a part of. A peculiar and remarkably memorable two-tone trumpet – or is it a female voice coming straight out of a raspy transistor radio? – is grafted onto an amalgamation of hazy synth-oid legato surfaces, heftily pulsating Space-Age bleeps and public service announcement gongs. Travel reports of German speakers follow, describing the coastal lines, twining rivers, fields of green grains, point-blank streets with ever-repeated hamlets and so on. The second phase of the title track is then exalted by a Waltz-like rhythm, wonkily elasticized bands, lachrymose symphonic strings, wordless female chants and various static noise particles lent from the subgenre of Glitch.


Otahiti is in constant fluxion, it is many places poured into one superimposition. The finale is called TOton, and yes, it is indeed stylized with two capital letters. This is undoubtedly the most minimal piece of the EP, originally envisioned in 2009 and featuring anything but a – nomen est omen – teutonic 6/8 beat in tandem with bursting vinyl crackles. So far, so rustic. The missing link to Exotica climes is provided by eagle owl-evoking sirens, cavernous concave crests and upwards spiraling Space-Age sound effects. These ingredients are admittedly few and far between, but even though the pith of nonentity is always nigh, these flecks do somehow surreptitiously admix erbaceous greeneries to the alluvial wastelands. A most welcome contravention of an otherwise austerely exiguous critter.


Maybe the title of the EP or the partially exotic pictures dazzle and trick me, but the enchanting Tropics are all over Do You Know Otahiti?, if not in the shape of birdcalls or related samples, then in the synth-related mimicry, Masayoshi Fujita’s vibraphone wizardry and the processed string washes. Conceptually, the EP is a mess, or to say it positively: it is as disordered as the rhizomes of a lush rain forest. While the first two tracks are live performances of the duo, the third one is the only Otahiti-related artifact, with the finale being an archival and previously unreleased stomper. What leaves me so flummoxed is the unlikely cohesion that must not exist, but does anyway! All four tracks are crammed into the EP and come from different angles and work phases, but they altogether show the juicy greenness of Jelinek’s current work phase where he willfully replaces his crown of a former Microhouse or Clicks & Cuts expert and puts on a more organic headdress that metaphorically synchronizes with the sound collages.


Whereas his clear cut Exotica works as Society For The Emancipation Of Sampling are incredibly fleeting and chock-full of ephemeral sounds, annotations and hints that even the Exotica connoisseur uncovers only accidentally at best, Do You Know Otahiti? comprises four long-form pieces that breathe and exhale heavily due to the heat waves that twirl through the thick air. Sylphlike yet acroamatic, solid yet gaseous, insouciant yet dubious, there is one basic rule: duality. Naturally, Masayoshi Fujita and Jan Jelinek do not provide the sound of one’s favorite vintage Exotica quartet, but those listeners who do not mind electro-acoustic patterns and lust for a more serious and bewitching approach unlike the grandiloquent plastic jungles and terracotta deserts of Tipsy or The Karminsky Experience, this as well as Jelinek’s societal material Circulations and More Circulations are precious gemstones which worship the traditions and piece them together anew. That’s the spirit! Do You Know Otahiti? is available on Faitiche in its vinyl incarnation and on iTunes and Amazon MP3 as a digital download. 


Exotica Review 244: Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek – Do You Know Otahiti? (2013). Originally published on Aug. 3, 2013 at