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Jacaszek - Glimmer


The world of MichaƂ Jacaszek increasingly luxuriates in the perpetual fading of crepuscular glow. As its title suggests, moments of light are few and far between on this album, flickering faintly in the dusk. Almost a suite of sorts, each piece is constructed from different configurations of the same set of instruments – harpsichord, muted piano, metallophones, cello, clarinet – while the studio acts as dusty coagulant, layering the organic sheen in flickers of synthetic detritus. Plucked and hammered strings scatter and fill the spectrum while swooning woodwinds carry the fading half-memory of a melody. The fragments they utter are seemlessly exchanged between instruments and buried beneath waves of static such that the ear follows their timbral morphology through an arc of inference.

There are nods to a classical background scattered throughout: the arpeggiated harpsichordof ‘Goldengroove’ and ‘As Each Tucked String Tells’ lend a baroque flourish; the former ends with the triumphant major key resolution of a Picardy third, in a short and somewhat incongruous coda. It is the only time that the harmonic gloom of the album is briefly unsettled by a glimmering mimesis that casts the rest of the pieces into relief. Generally, the pieces rock back and forth on simple harmonic axes, enacting a respiratory ebb and flow of tension through volume and density control.

At points I wish they were as delicate harmonically and structurally as their texturally detailed production would seem to demand. But criticizing an album for what it doesn’t do is rather like reprimanding the Royal Philharmonic for not having enough Stockhausen in its repertoire: not only does it misunderstand the point but in doing so it wilfully ignores vast swathes of superbly constructed music. The intricacies of Jacaszek’s arrangements reward a careful ear and, in truth, Glimmer is hardly gesturally bereft. The tremulous crescendo of vibrating strings in ‘Dare-gale’ provide just enough momentum early on to roll through to the tidal wash of distortion that threatens to overwhelm ‘Evening Strains To Be Time’s Vast’ twice, but doesn’t quite. ‘What Wind-Walks Up Above!’ throbs and weaves through breathy reeds, setting scenes separated by abrupt digital pauses before a solo clarinet emerges to lead a short but soaring melody through the murk.

Largely though, nestling gently somewhere between the Leaf label’s Colleen at her most brittle and Four Tet at his most reflective, Glimmer is an understated affair. With its echoes of such artists, this is not an album that seeks to capture the zeitgeist - and is all the more refreshing as a result. If the tracks hover in the flickering twilight, it is a dusk that never quite retreats into night; there is rather a sense of uninterrupted stasis, a gentle minimalist torsion that rarely slackens. The restricted palette of Jacaszek’s acousmatic ensemble ensures its nine tracks form a cohesive whole that begs repeated reacquaintance, making the album a wholly edifying, if hardly revolutionary, listen.

Toby Bennett

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