An immediately immersive work from the experimental Polish composer.
Chris Power 2011-12-02
Polish composer Michal Jacaszek’s work blends modern electronics with the sounds of earlier eras to create music of great individuality. His first solo album, Lo Fi Stories (2004), reconstituted the melodies of music boxes and degraded tapes. Sequel, his second collaboration with the poet Mitka Malzahn, offered a skewed take on jazz and performance poetry. But it was on his second solo album, Treny (2008), that Jacaszek formulated the blend of baroque instrumentation and digital manipulation he has continued to explore through 2009’s Pentral and now this, his latest album.
Glimmer is an immediately immersive work, the lapping acoustic guitar and harp strings of Goldengrove rising atop swells of textured bass and spiralling harpsichord progressions. Dare-Gale begins as a solid bass pulse of gloom, soon breaking into clacks and turbulent digital breaths that scurry across misty fields of harpsichord, xylophone and found sound. It’s lulling, but Jacaszek is seldom content to let his intricate constructions meander, and the track builds to a creaking, splintering climax.
Jacaszek’s taste for drama divided listeners on his last album, Pentral – an attempt to map a Gothic church interior with sound – wherein very delicate passages would be interrupted by deafening blasts of layered pipe organ. Here he returns to the intimacy of the chamber piece that characterised Treny, but extreme moments remain amid the prevailing sombreness. The tidal suck of Evening Strains to Be Time’s Vast slowly builds its layers of decaying sound around the balm of harpsichord, swooning clarinet and harp, until harsh bursts of digital noise begin to whip out of the track’s heart. Unlike Pentral, where the shocks of sound were informed by the abrupt methods of devotional organ music, Glimmer builds incrementally towards its cacophonies.
For the most part, though, Glimmer operates in a more reflective register, albeit one that’s finally no less draining than assaultive noise. A fog saturates these tracks, which, coupled with the antique timbres of Jacaszek’s favoured instruments, freights them with a heavy nostalgia and melancholy. The dusky blues of What Wind – Walks Up Above!, where delayed guitar figures echo into the distance behind a slow, sinuous clarinet, exemplifies this. This heaviness doesn’t entirely lift at the close, but the trembling layers of Spanish guitar driving As Each Tucked String Tells, and Windhover’s rich sonorities, are touched with more light than ever penetrates Glimmer’s twilit core; an inkling of spring in the album’s stark midwinter.