Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek
”A Fragmented Sense Of Space”
The second full-length outing of Japanese vibraphonist Masayoshi Fujita and German electronic musician as well as man-of-many-monikers Jan Jelinek sees the duo enhancing and intensifying their mutual understanding for — and love of — the Tropics with a capital t, and it is every bit as languorous and enthralling as I imagined. The follow-up to the gentlemen's collaborative debut Bird, Lake, Objects (2010) and subsequent EP Do You Know Otahiti? (2013), the latter of which featured two live performances or rather sound-based installations, it is the latest release called Schaum (German for foam or froth) which transmutes earthbound traces into phantasmagoric peninsulas of green and lilac tone sequences; don't mind the grey/grainy front artwork.
Released on Jelinek's own label Faitiche and distributed by Morr Music, the CD/LP/digital download version can be ordered everywhere. Back on Bird, Lake, Objects, moments of unintended — but ultimately embraced — worldly happenstances such as firetruck sirens or ground loop sinews protruded the thickly wadded vibraphone-powered soundscapes. Now on Schaum, the plant-oriented devotion to rain forests and tundras is directly tied to Otahiti's two live recordings in Barcelona and Munich. Fujita's vibraphone is carefully altered by means of wooden objects, wool and even toys, whereas Jelinek's Ambient loops are his most majestic and multistacked ones as of yet.
Eight songs made it onto the album, and fittingly enough, this here review is posted in the Exotica and Ambient section at once, living up to the title of this site and the true spirit of Schaum's chemical-aural diffeomorphism: it is both bona fide and de trop, the latter of which sounds deliciously like the Tropics. And yes: plastic jungles and plasticity jungles are two sides of the single coin when Fujita & Jelinek are involved. Alluvial electronics and hecatombic vibraphone assets create ”a fragmented sense of space," as Jelinek coins in the explanatory notes, or better still: a zoetrope. Yet another word that inherits a tropical allusion. Here, then, is a closer look at three of the album's aesthetic markers.
Chlorotic Chaparrals, Tropical Density
One thing is certain in the gentlemen's established rain forest: it encapsulates the warmest, densely layered textures and backgrounds as of yet. Especially considering Jelinek's more punctilio-focused pragmatism (more about it in the next section), the legato-fueled circumambience is a dream come true in many a track, moist and hot — and hence tastefully soporific — on the one hand, and strikingly euphorious as well as victorious on the other.
Right from the get-go, the opener Cin offers a chlorophyll-coated blast of prolonged fuchsia fusion coils; a synthetic two-note fluffy flume, a Waltz-evoking yttrium bass aorta not unlike the duo's debut, and, separated by two Oxford commas, a sumptuous benignancy running on all cylinders. Cin is a paradisiac pericarp, absorbing, emanating and transmuting the very tropical density that Fujita & Jelinek are so fond of. This is pure bliss, in fact so much so that the injected vibraphone droplets and ligneous fauna are but an ancillary aureole in the thiazide thicket.
The elasticized tone sequences continue to reign throughout the record, potentially diminishing Jelinek's proclaimed fragmented sense of space until phantasmagoria hits home as the listening subject realizes the reciprocation between the isotopes and the background bokeh. And indeed, Urub is more akin to a Detroit-oriented cannelure than a streamlet, subsuming heat pipes, stokehold smoke and charcoal coruscation amidst a curtain-esque argentine arch. Vague, Yet meanwhile sees this amethystine diorama enlarged: again based on two deeply susurrant notes, the toned-down electricity of the backdrop provides a spatial coppice for the benthic vibraphone-accentuated foreground. In short: Schaum is, for now, a proper Ambient record due to its malleable physiognomy and Jelinek's synthesizer reticulation alone.
Staged Megafaunas, Synthetic Isospins
The mildly antagonistic force to the prolonged flow is the clicks (and cuts?), crickets, faux field recordings and scintillating synthesis. Whenever a driblet, cave pearl or purified prong appears, it is always tied to nature. These nomological entities find their way into Jan Jelinek's music as early as in 2006 when Tierbeobachtungen (2006 (animal observations, 2006) is released. Tawny, silvery, bleepy: the birds, amphibian carapaces and covered deer is always in close proximity to the chaparral and coppice. A few years later, the Music & Birds section of Jelinek's EP Music For Fragments (2012) boosts this very foray/forest by means of an eloquently subatomic analogue clickiness that ultimately superseded the artist's — occasionally revisited — soulful Farben House style.
Schaum's superstructure is loaded with these galactosamines, gluons and glints wherever you look. They often appear as emaciated and desiccated entities, for instance in the cautiously raspy jitter jive LesLang whose auspicious amalgamation of sun-kissed milquetoast shards turns into an austere asbestus ayre whose IDM afterglow is softened by the euphonious atmosphere's ultramafic luminosity.
Considering the particular/peculiar proclivity for clicks and co., the track What You Should Know About Me simultaneously carries the most appropriate title and pinpointed meaning at the same time. One of the duo's darkest but by no means clandestine pieces to date, this serpentine track leads to a cloak-and-dagger four-note vibraphone nucleus whose rhizomatic hypanthium is fittingly entrapped — and deeply so — within rhenium blips, steelified harbor pipes and an overall ominous ignis fatuus. It is here where the particles and chops form the greatest unison with the legato loops: What You Should Know About Me is scarily soothing despite (or because of) its crepuscular incandescence. A bright and thus mis-chromosomed Dark Ambient recess maybe?
… And Amidst The Reticulation, The Vibraphone
Fujita & Jelinek are prone to deliver EPs and albums for years to come, if only for the fact that the vibraphone unites both artists. From Jelinek's earliest outings as Farben to the supra-sublime planetesimal Vibraphonspulen off Kosmischer Pitch (2006), the artist adores the instrument and has shown time and again that he is able to skillfully illumine his soundscapes with this periglacial mallet instrument himself if need be.
Masayoshi Fujita's way of playing the vibraphone, however, can be considered the real deal, as it exudes vigor, softness and timbrical metamorphoses in the interim, always without carrying a whole track and hence never disturbing the carefully set up equimolar titration process. It so happens that the Japanese vibraphonist oscillates and oozes through Schaum's benthic rain forest ad infinitum, and so the instrument's textural quality as well its scenic appearance need to be conquered — and eventually absorbed — in a dedicated sub-section, i.e. this one.
Percussion elements, toys and metal objects are used to alter the instrument's appearance. Sometimes the listener is willfully given a grace period, being fully able to realize the classical hoarfrost-coated pristine polar light of each dropped note such as in the aforementioned opener Cin or the bosky lanthanum grove Botuto. However, apparitions such as Helio feature the vibe in a heavily augmented state. Shuttling between harp-like glissando glaze and cocktail-compatible mystery chimes, the king of all mallet instruments transmutes through the similarly regal antrum of bliss. Similarly, in the long finale Parades, Fujita opens a cornucopia of majestic glitters, frosty stardust and matutinal dew drops.
Coppice Of The Mind
With Schaum, Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek have created the distinct cavity of tropical hue that is alluded through its title. The amalgamation of aerose analogue entities, viridian foliage of the digital kind and silver magnetotails of the vibraphone altogether project a wonderful unison between sound, sustain and silence. This multiplex is equally Ambient-focused as it is exotic.
Schaum's exotic (s)trait, however, doesn't translate into panchromatic escapism as in Jelinek's LP Circulations (2009), released under his utopian alias/project Society For The Emancipation Of Sampling. In lieu of illustrious samples, it is depth, deepness and profundity that alternate between the interstitial states of the tracks. From start to finish, the duo's second album adheres to floralcy and translucent architecture without a single recognizable real-world field recording to ever materialize. The megafauna called Schaum is an extraordinarily amicable yet solanum-like place with many a light source and incidental lacunar cove to counterbalance that sunlit (holo)scenic coppice of the mind.
Further listening and reading:
Schaum is distributed by Morr Music and available on virtually all digital music stores.
Ambient Review 475: Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek – Schaum (2016). Originally published on Sep. 19, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.